Some of the digital and technology professionals we spoke to were not clear on whether sustainability or net zero was something their organisation was pushing for - “I'm pretty sure we've not got that at the moment” (Digital and technology lead at a Sponsored Body).
Others were more aware that their organisation had some goals around them but didn’t see them referred to often - “It doesn't pop up very often. I've gotta be honest with you. I wouldn't be able to quote any of them” (Digital and technology practitioner in Central Adminstration).
It was agreed by digital and sustainability professionals that more work could be done to communicate sustainability commitments across the organisation - “I think it needs to be promoted internally a bit more and services to be more aware of that. I'm not sure we've nailed that so much” (Digital and technology lead in a Local Authority) and “We seem to be lacking in communications our in our organisations” (Sustainability lead in Health and Care).
Even if digital professionals were aware of their organisations sustainability and net zero ambitions, many people were not clear on how their work fitted into this - “That's why I struggle. Because I think how does sustainability fit in with the kind of projects where we are buying a system typically?” (Digital and technology lead in a Local Authority) and “I don't think on a whole the majority of IT at that bothered about sustainability when it comes to their job. I think they're probably reasonably mindful within a bigger picture but I think ICT is one of those areas where they're like what can we do? We're using a laptop, you know, we're doing what we can.” (Digital and technology practitioner in Local Authority).
Some mentioned a disconnect between their organisations high level goals and the digital projects they worked on - “There are goals like that at the university that they're written in papers at the top but how that translates down into the actual digital environment, I don't think it really does.” (Digital and technology practitioner at a University).
Some sustainability literate participants did have an appreciation of the opportunity here - “If Collaboration with public sector procurement colleagues could be a way into it and saying instead of just buying loads more paper, even if it's sustainable paper, we can actually design a service that does that digitally but doesn't increase the carbon footprint” (Service Manager at Central Adminstration).
A few participants touched on the realities of what actually being net zero means as opposed to just more sustainability / reducing emissions. They talked about the fact that their service is always going to generate emissions, even if using digital solutions - “We're always gonna have a carbon footprint because of the nature of the work that we're doing, trying to net zero that carbon footprint… I wouldn't know where to start.”