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Words Nicola Phillips
You might be forgiven to think that websites and the technology industry are innately Green. You might even place it at the opposite end of the scale to known high environmental polluters like the agriculture or fuel Industries. After all, you don’t associate websites with bulldozers trundling over large-scale land clearing or black smoke tumbling from fossil-fuelled factories. The technology industry feels clean, fresh and green in comparison, right?
It might surprise you to learn that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ecosystem as a whole has a carbon footprint on par with the aviation industry’s emissions from fuel. Crazy but true. As innovation only continues to advance, technology’s requirement for additional energy will only continue to grow year on year. In fact, the clever guys at the Chalmers University of Technology Sweden identified that within 10 years the internet would consume more electricity than is currently generated worldwide!
You only need to look at our digital lifestyle to see our growing demand to stream films and music, remote scrolling of social media, and using cloud-based storage services for everything from storing photos of your cute cat to controlling your central heating. To support this need, the tech giants have implemented large energy-consuming infrastructures which include housing huge data centres and increasing quantities of fibre cables to transport the information. This increased volume of data consumes enormous amounts of electricity and it's not sustainable as Chalmers University identify. This is why we ask how green is your website, as it is a component part contributing to this growing demand for data! Now you know this, what action are you going to take?
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein
We know that action is being taken at International level with the United Nations Paris agreement. This legally binding international treaty on climate change has the UK accountable to reach a net-zero target by 2050. It’s great to know that legislation is pushing the large corporates in the right direction and organisations like ClientEarth and Greenpeace are working tirelessly to hold governments and organisations accountable for their actions. Amongst their work, they’re monitoring and exposing Greenwashing knowing the global eco-awakening could leave some companies exaggerating their green practices.
But what about the small and medium businesses, what are we to do? The simple answer is to stop using fossil fuels. Oxford Principles for net zero-aligned carbon offsetting sets out some great guidance starting with reducing your own emissions.
In short, we all need to hold a mirror up to our own business and identify what impact our business is having on the environment. It’s time to be honest with ourself and assign time, money and resource to solve the challenges we may face in reducing our own emissions. Energy consumption and transport are the two largest polluters, perhaps you tackle these first? Don’t forget to take responsibility for your supply chain and add sustainability to your vetting process.
Setting up our business, Canvass, we wanted to take the opportunity of shaping a business to create strong foundations that would have a positive impact. We wanted our reach to be wider than just to benefit the founders. Balancing people, profits and planet became our bedrock. With this in mind but knowing the energy-heavy industry we were in, we had to ask ourselves ‘how can we have a positive impact?’
We started by creating a simple model that looked at Our Business, Our Projects and Our Influence.
This formed the outline of our Environmental policy; a framework that can grow, stretch and guide Canvass as it continues to evolve. This framework identifies several actions and ambitions for the business under each of the three headings and here are our biggest sustainable achievements to date:
We are proud of the actions we have taken. However, we would feel even prouder if this article has inspired you to take action to make a positive change. Please do let us know what sustainable changes you are making as we would love to hear your stories and learn more ourselves. If you don’t run a business you can still make a difference. Is your home energy from a sustainable source? You can surprisingly save money with this option, it’s doesn’t have to cost you a penny to have a positive impact.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Some further positive news to end this article. This Easter break, the National Grid reported 5th April ’21 was the UK’s Greenest day on record with 80% of Britain's power being produced from low-carbon energy sources. There was no coal generation on the grid and just 10% of power was from gas plants. It gives us hope that we can all make a difference.