In our survey the vast majority of respondents expressed they are aware of some of the ways that their decision making around digital and technology impacts on carbon emissions. However, there is likely to be a selection sampling bias here where people who are already interested in sustainability are more likely to opt to participate in the survey.
Pie chart showing that 25 out of 28 survey respondents selected that they were aware or sort of aware how their decision making around digital and technology contributes to carbon net zero targets.
Responses in the interviews were more mixed and likely more representative. However, most people could still explain some ways in which the decisions they make could be positively or negatively impacting carbon emissions.
Despite most participants being able to give at least one of two examples of where their work in digital technology has a positive or negative impact on carbon emissions, there was a clear knowledge gap for some people in understanding the full picture - “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 a Local Authority).
It wasn’t something that was always seen as digital and technology professionals responsibility - “I'm gonna fess up and say it's not something we think about too much. We we let other people worry about things like that.” (Digital and technology lead in Central Administration).
Some of the digital leaders and particularly the sustainability leads that we spoke to did see the link between digital and net zero more clearly, although it was recognised by some that there was a lot more work to do in this space to explore the art of the possible - “I don't think we've even begun to really think about how digital can be used. Let's put the two together.” (Service Manager in Central Administration).
Participants referenced examples from the following categories and some could think of examples that fitted into multiple categories. However, it was unusual for a participant to have examples of all three.
IT kit and equipment - This was one of the main areas that participants cited in regards to reducing the footprint of digital technology. For example people talked about buying the right kit, considering energy ratings, not buying unnecessary or duplicate equipment, buying recycled equipment where possible and recycling equipment at the end of it’s life.