Internet and IT technology usage already creates more greenhouse gas than the aviation industry according to a 2019 report by The Shift Project, a Paris, France-based carbon transition think tank, and is on track to account for eight per cent of emissions by 2025.

For the first time in North America, a group of Canada’s biggest public and private sector organizations including Accenture, ATCO, Bell, Canadian Blood Services, Micro Focus, Microsoft Canada and Oracle, have made a commitment to curb the environmental impact of their IT operations by signing the Sustainable IT Pledge.

The pledge signatories are all members of the CIO Strategy Council, a non-profit that brings together Canada’s leading businesses and public-sector organizations to act on the challenges posed by the digital economy. It is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada and develops standards that support the data-driven economy.

“Few of us are aware of the carbon emissions caused by the data centres and networks that our smartphones and laptops run on,” said Katie Gibson, vice president of strategy and partnerships at CIO Strategy Council, the non-profit leading the pledge. “But energy demand from digital technologies is increasing six times faster than the rest of the economy due to the growth of remote working, streaming services and the widespread use of data-hungry artificial intelligence. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear last week, the climate crisis is a ‘code-red for humanity.’ Time is fast running out to act on emissions, and Canada’s leading public and private-sector organizations are stepping up to the plate.”

Jim Love, chief information officer and chief content officer at IT World Canada, added, “We all have to take accountability for not just our personal but also our corporate carbon footprint. We can’t simply pass it off as someone else’s responsibility or wait for someone else to solve it.  It’s easy to say the “buck stops here”.  Maybe what we really need to say is the “solution starts here”.  That’s true accountability.  I’m proud to stand with the other CIOs on the CIO Strategy Council who are stepping up to be part of the solution.”

The Pledge

To address the issues, the signatories have pledged to:

  • Take steps to address emissions from their IT operations by, for instance: optimizing their systems to reduce data processing volumes; using cloud-based services where possible; and extending service life of devices by refurbishing existing assets instead of buying replacements.
  • Set robust emissions targets for their IT operations and publicly disclose progress against them.
  • Set rigorous sustainability standards for suppliers while supporting Canada’s cleantech industry.
  • Promote the adoption of sustainable IT practices and consider areas where national standards for sustainable IT could help.

These commitments will also enhance many of the signatories’ existing promises to become carbon-neutral.

“We are proud to add Microsoft Canada to the CIO Strategy Council Sustainable IT Pledge, adding to our continued leadership when it comes to driving down emissions in the sector,” said John Weigelt, national technology officer, Microsoft Canada. “Last year, Microsoft committed to be carbon negative by 2030 and, by 2050, to remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted since it was founded in 1975. We continue to work towards this goal and strive to help our customers achieve their own sustainability goals along with us.”

Added Neil Correa, cyber strategist at Micro Focus, another signatory, “The importance of us all taking action to protect the environment has never been greater, which is why Micro Focus is proud to sign the Sustainable IT Pledge, alongside our peers. We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and to helping our customers and partners address their carbon footprint and adopt carbon friendly IT strategies. Through this pledge, the work of the CIO Strategy Council and our collective efforts, together we can play a part in helping to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

For the full list of companies that have joined the Sustainable IT Pledge and to read the pledge in full, visit ciostrategycouncil.com/sustainable.

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