The significant role of ICT in living sustainably

June 16, 2020 | 08:00
The topic of climate change has become more prevalent in the global debate and awareness of consumers in the world. Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, writes about how ICT can play a significant role in living sustainability. 
1496p 17 the significant role of ict in living sustainably
Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos

Ericsson’s latest Consumer Lab report on consumers, sustainability, and ICT focuses on the attitudes of consumers towards sustainability challenges and how technology could help them make a positive impact.

The report uncovers that in the past two decades alone, global concern about air and water pollution has risen from concerning one in five of the world’s consumers, to almost one in two. Meanwhile, consideration for climate change and global warming has also risen from 13 per cent of consumers to 50 per cent. It is clear that consumers see the need for collective action, with five in 10 expecting companies and brands to uphold their share of the responsibility, alongside citizens across the world.

ICT tools and services can play a significant role in assisting consumer’s daily efforts to reduce their personal environmental impact. We see in the study that consumers perceive ICT as helpful in their daily life, be it for environmental, health, cost, or convenience-related reasons. But ICT also has the potential to enable future innovation to address climate action, and here service providers have a unique opportunity and position to provide novel solutions that can aid consumers in making more sustainable choices in daily life.

Consumers see technological innovation as critical to tackling future environmental challenges – a statement backed up by 46 per cent of those surveyed. Further, 36 per cent would like their devices to offer guidance on living more environmentally consciously.

1496p 17 the significant role of ict in living sustainably
Consumers are increasingly focusing on their own carbon footprint

It is worth noting that while about 70 per cent of consumers think citizens in general should act, only 55 per cent identify themselves as bearing responsibility. This might suggest that consumers are finding it difficult to connect their individual actions to any significant impact on the overall state of the climate. And while consumers may feel they are making efforts, they still need to build more understanding of what more they should do, especially given the continually declining state of the environment.

There are numerous daily decisions that consumers can make to minimise their personal environmental impact – from conserving water and energy, shopping more locally and sustainably, to considering a green energy provider and choosing energy-efficient appliances. However, it is clear that it needs more than individual actions to truly protect the environment – companies have a significant role to play.

More profoundly, how and what consumers do to mitigate personal impact should be part of an overarching global and national sustainability agenda that engages the business sector and the community. The combination of national strategies and technological innovation, as well as consumer drive and interest, not only provide a framework where consumers can truly be part of a dedicated action plan, but also delivers on a core need – a collective action to protect the environment. Actions for mitigating environmental impact should be a collective effort, as one in four consumers see that everyone should take this responsibility across the world.

Ericsson is working to reduce its own carbon footprint and has a 1.5-degree science-based target in place. We are also working with others to halve the emissions of the ICT sector by 2030. However, it is important to understand the ICT sector’s footprint in relation to its decarbonisation effects, and to make use of its potential to help other sectors decarbonise.

In this context, ICT’s footprint is relatively small compared to its potential impacts, as all sectors of the economy become digitalised. The ICT sector’s carbon footprint could be reduced by over 80 per cent if all electricity consumed came from renewable energy sources as per one Ericsson study on the digital carbon footprint. Used in the right way, ICT could be a major tool to implement low-carbon and circular solutions in all sectors, and potential opportunities are profound.

ICT can bring remote healthcare to rural areas, improve efficiency of electricity grids, and introduce smoother traffic flows. ICT solutions, including 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, machine learning, and automation have great potential to reduce carbon emissions globally, in numerous sectors and industries.

Existing ICT solutions have an estimated potential to reduce global carbon emissions by up to 15 per cent In terms of global decarbonisation – this equals around one-third of the halving of emissions deemed crucial by 2030. With new technologies like 5G, IoT and AI, additional emission reduction opportunities will materialise.

Even as the world looks at a new reality after COVID-19, the opportunity arises for a global and economic recovery plan. Such a plan aims to rejuvenate previous initiatives of limiting the average global warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees, by scaling up global ICT efforts exponentially.

By Denis Brunetti

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