digital transformation

Responsible digitalization and Green IT goes far beyond having servers running on renewable energy and being GDPR-compliant (General Data Protection Regulation): the topic is much larger than that!

“Soon a more responsible digital transformation”? was the topic of the conference organized on 10/10/19 by the AFAI-ISACA (the association of IS professionals In France) where consulting firm (Anne Himeno), associations (HOP Stop Programmed Obsolescence, Fairness Coop), and major groups of the CAC40 (Société Générale) gave an overview of the issues and alternatives. 

Here is a summary in 3 points: context, alternatives, motivations for companies.


Background: Why digital must become more “responsible”?

The environmental and social impacts of the digital transformation are important AND growing, given the rise of digitalization and connected objects generating huge data flows. This obviously includes artificial intelligence (AI).

  • 10% of the carbon footprint of French people corresponds to Internet purchases and uses (source: French Ministry of the Ecological Transition)
  • The social and environmental impacts of electrical and electronic equipment occur at 70-80% during their manufacture, including the extraction of the necessary raw materials. And between 5-10% at the end of their life : according to Interpol, ¾ of the electrical and electronic equipment waste are subject to mafia trafficking. (Source: figures mentioned during the conference).


Alternatives: How can digital become responsible?

Responsible digital transformation aims to create shared value for the 3 axes of sustainable development: people,  planet and profits.

Actions towards “Low Tech” (or digital frugality):

  • The challenge is to extend the end of life and avoid the technical, software and aesthetic obsolescence of products and services in order to minimize their negative impacts (mentioned above). This applies to electrical and electronic equipment (smartphones, computers, etc.) as well as digital services (operating systems, applications, etc.)
  • Use the “3U” rule: similar to the 5Rs of the circular economy, digitalalization (including equipment) one must ask the question: is it Useful – Usable – Used? Many “default” apps are often heavy and unused on smartphones for example. 
  • Analyze impacts of the digital services or products by performing a multicriteria lifecycle analysis (ISO 14044)
  • Design sites and applications to be less “obese” and “greedy” in data processing: eco-design is also possible for digital services! (ISO 14062)


Motivations: Why are businesses adopting more responsible digital? 

The testimonial of Société Générale suggested that CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has muted from a “cost center” to a profit center:

  • Thanks to their CSR approach, access to money is being facilitated (financial markets are increasingly sensitive to CSR / ESG issues and practices).
  • The bank also reports that “doing digital responsibly means saving money”.
  • Lastly, engaging employees on the social and environmental challenges of digital technology – and engaging them in solutions and action steps – enables them to understand that certain choices are made to reduce impacts and not only to reduce costs. All of this add purpose to people’s jobs and offers concrete ways to act and participate in the ecological transition of their company.

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Written by Marena Eirich, CSR consultant and lecturer, founder of teams4purpose®

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