Blog: The candle is still burning

Blog: The candle is still burning

2023-06-21 | Blog | Andre LensinkTuesday 20 June 2023 17:17

I must have been about 9 years old when I first saw that burning globe. A candle, in the shape of our earth, slowly burned out. This made a deep impression. Maybe then my green heart started beating. ... Now I also want to show that in my role as CIO. In this blog, therefore, some of my recommendations to get that done. How do you handle this?

[See Movie Burning globe VPRO, the first 'Postbus 51 commercial' on energy]

Sustainability in my personal life
I have been trying to live more sustainably for a long time. For many years I opted for an annual public transport card instead of a lease car. I've been vegetarian for a few years now. Our flat roof is full of 24 solar panels. More than enough for our own consumption and for all the kilometers we drive with our electric car.

Solar panels and an electric car also require a serious investment. Even better are the steps that hardly cost time or money but still yield a lot. Steps that anyone can take, such as switching to a sustainable bank and insurer. This takes little effort and has a great effect. The fair money guide (Dutch) shows how banks and insurers score on themes such as climate change, human rights, nature, weapons, gender equality, animal welfare and taxes. Your money can make a difference.

Professional sustainability
Making my private life more sustainable is becoming increasingly difficult. Yes, we are not completely off gas yet and going vegan would be the next step. But I really like cheese and yogurt.

That brought me to the question: how can I, as a CIO, contribute to sustainability?

It was not easy to find good information. Shortly before the deadline of this blog, I was made aware of the Twin Transition, a combination of a digital and a sustainable transition. A great development that has already been given attention within CIO Platform Nederland.

In my search I also discovered a “nonprofit organization (NPO) led by technology executives who will advance sustainability around the world through technology leadership.” They made a document on “IT Standards for Environmental, Social and Governance Sustainability”. I will highlight a few points, with which I hope to inspire you to also take steps towards a greener interpretation of the CIO role.

More impact than the Great Wall of China
In 2020, data centers and networks used approximately 480-650 TeraWatt-Hour (1 TWh = 1 billion kWh), which is 2–3% of global electricity demand [1]. This does not include the energy consumption for crypto mining. In 2021, an additional 120 TWh will be consumed for crypto mining.

Although data centers are becoming more and more efficient, the total energy consumption is increasing due to the strong growth. Some predict that the percentage of electricity consumption by data centers and networks will rise to 8% in 2030.

There is certainly plenty to do in our industry in the field of waste. In 2022, global e-waste weighed 57 million tons. That is more than the weight of the entire Great Wall of China [2].

Emissions in scope
When mapping emissions, there are 3 scopes. Scope 1 includes emissions caused by an organization's own activities. Scope 2 deals with the emissions as a result of generating the energy that an organization consumes. Scope 3 includes emissions from third parties in your value chain. This includes emissions from transport and waste processing, but also emissions from customers through the use of your products.

The distribution of emissions across the 3 scopes differs per sector. In the energy sector, emissions mainly fall into scope 1. In IT, the focus is on scopes 2 and 3. End-user devices and data centers together cause 50% of the emissions in our sector.

Steps towards more sustainable hardware and software
Just like at home, in our professional environment, some steps are relatively simple and inexpensive. I'll name 2: an honest phone and greener software.

Various organizations already offer employees the choice to opt for a Fairphone in addition to the usual iPhone or Android devices. Fairphone's ambition is: “We want the electronics industry to prioritize sustainability and fair labor practices; to take into account the climate and the fragile ecosystem of our planet; to make a genuine effort to ensure both human rights and employee satisfaction. And where fair materials and responsible processes don't exist, we partner with local communities and industry to create them. Together we challenge to break the short-term thinking that the world can no longer afford.”

Sustainable sprint
A second interesting possibility is the greening of software [3]. I recently heard of an organization that devotes 1 in every many sprints to improving the efficiency of their applications. There were examples where the performance of systems was improved by up to 10-20%.

This knife cuts on many sides. Optimized software needs less server capacity, so less hardware and less waste, less energy consumption, better performance for users, usually more stable software with fewer incidents and, of course, lower costs.

Moreover, such improvements are not a one-off, but remain valuable during the entire remaining life cycle of the application.

Sustainable routes: 100,000 cars off the road
In addition to making IT more sustainable, you can make IT more sustainable. Google has contributed to the reduction of emissions in scope 3 since last autumn by also showing eco-friendly routes in Google Maps. These are routes that may take a few minutes longer than the fastest route but use less energy.

Google claims that after introduction in the US. and Canada has already taken the equivalent of 100,000 fuel cars off the road [4].

The candle must go out
Almost 50 years after I saw the earth burn, the fire is still not extinguished. Let us, as CIOs and as inhabitants of this beautiful earth, make sure that the candle goes out quickly. Every CIO can get started with the examples in my blog and with the twin transition. What will your next step be? Share it in the comments on Linkedin so that together we maximize our impact.

André Lensink

P.S. For those who are still looking for inspiration to make their private life more sustainable, here are some of my favorites:

• Sharing cars: Carsharing - SnappCar
• Sharing and borrowing stuff: Peerb
• Radically honest coffee: Moyee Coffee
• Against food waste: Too Good To Go
• Buy m2 of land to restore biodiversity: Land van Ons
• Crowdfunding sustainable projects: Oneplanetcrowd


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