2050Today - Guidelines
Sustainable IT

Climate action on Sustainable IT

Smartphones, computers, tablets, televisions and other connected objects give a feeling of immaterial connection, yet they are all very real objects. From their manufacture to their end-of-life, they have an impact on the environment, including during their use. Relay antennas, satellites, servers and data centres are needed to transport, process and store all our data. The digital sector mobilises a lot of resources, accounting for 2 to 4% of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, a growing proportion that corresponds to that of air transport. It consumes around 10% of electricity in Europe, and in Switzerland nearly 8% of electricity is used by internet-related infrastructures. By way of comparison, the railways consume just over 5% in Switzerland and public lighting less than 1%. The space used by 93 data centres based in Switzerland is equivalent to almost 154,000 m2, or around 24 football pitches. They alone consume 3.6% of the country’s electricity. Conducting a simple search on the web corresponds to the emission of around 7 grams of CO2, and sending an e-mail generates just under 20 grams. On average, an institution emits more than 130 kg of CO2 per employee each year just from email activity alone.

The impact of digital technology is therefore a rising source of environmental concern, as data centres and computer servers are growing to support various online activities. Societies become increasingly digital with online services and content available and consumed continuously. To minimise this environmental impact, there is a need to change practices and customs and implement a sustainable IT approach that helps benefit from the ICT potential for improvement while reducing its harmful consequences.

While digital technology definitely has a carbon footprint, it can also be a lever for reducing that of other sectors. Creating a digital solution to a given problem in order to reduce its footprint is known as IT for Green. This digital solution for sustainability must be advocated for while developing it in such a way as to reduce its environmental impact.

The 2050Today Charter recommends institutions to take action towards the following Sustainable IT objectives when defining their action plan.

1. Streamlining IT Equipment

2. Reducing IT environmental impact

3. Optimizing IT energy consumption

Objectives and Tools

You will find below the 6 thematic objectives of the 2050Today Charter corresponding to the Sustainable IT sector and suggestions for corresponding actions. Based on an initial assessment, each institution should set its own specific actions to develop and implement its Action Plan. The selected actions will allow the definition of an individual action plan to meet tailored targets by 2025, 2028 and 2030. In order to carry out the assessment of the initial situation and define the individual action plan, a thematic measurement table on Sustainable IT is provided as tool.

Click on the bullet points for quick access

Management objectives

Objective 1 - Establishing management measures to ensure the action plan implementation

To ensure a successful implementation of the proposed measures, it is important to gather the necessary resources to maintain a coherent, adapted and evolving action plan over time. In addition, it is necessary that the project is regularly monitored, that all the actors are involved and that the human and financial resources are sufficient for the measures taken. It involves setting clear objectives, defining roles and responsibilities and describing the steps required to achieve sustainable IT objectives. Governance will be adapted to the needs and possibilities of each participating institution. Basically, it is a question of being able to manage change by using appropriate tools (surveys, working groups, etc.).


  • Implement a strategic steering group
  • Nominate a Sustainable IT Manager
  • Introduce a Sustainable IT management system
  •  Set up user advisory groups

Objective 2 - Monitoring sustainability over time

Measurement is an important stage in the deployment of a sustainable IT approach. As the saying goes, “You can only improve what you measure”. By measuring the carbon footprint its information system, the institution can optimise it with full knowledge of the causes. Measuring enables orders of magnitude of impact to be identified. The first measurement provides a benchmark against which the organisation can compare its progress year on year. Measurement aims at:

  • Mapping the impact of digital technology
  • A better understanding of the specific impact of IT on the organisation
  • Prioritise actions according to the specific characteristics of your organisation
  • Create a benchmark against which to measure progress year after year


  • Map all the company’s digital equipment and services.
  • Choose a commercially available measurement tool to suit your needs.
  • Work with the chosen service provider and in-house teams to provide the indicators needed to measure the footprint (e.g. number of users, GB stored, number of servers, number of office equipment, renewal rate, etc.).
  • Analyse the assessment provided by the measurement tool and take concrete action to reduce and limit the impact of the information technology system.

Objective 3 - Championing change and involving all stakeholders

While the digital footprint accounts for over 4% of greenhouse gases worldwide, the subject of Sustainable IT is still little known and remains difficult to grasp for most of our society. This objective aims at:

  • Raising awareness among all staff of the challenges of a more sustainable IT economy to better understand the origins of the digital carbon footprint and the orders of magnitude of its impact, by creating a common discourse and a shared vision of the impact of digital technology.

  • Ensuring that all employees support the deployment of the sustainable IT approach.

Knowing how to communicate about its Sustainable IT approach as widely as possible is a key challenge for the institution, both in terms of its external and internal image. This objective aims at

  • Obtaining recognition for the institution’s approach

  • Improving the institution’s employer image

  • Involving other stakeholders in the Sustainable IT approach

  • Raising awareness of the challenges of Sustainable IT generally


  • Plan regular internal communication on your sustainable IT action plan.
  • Organise in-house training sessions to encourage the adoption of common user practices. Among other things, the challenge is to limit file versioning to avoid storing numerous obsolete versions
  • Organise specialised trainings (over and above awareness-raising) for those who have specific issues with digital technology and/or are part of a group of advisers on the theme of sustainable IT use.
  • Put in place a team of expert advisers to support the other employees of the institution.
  • Communicate externally. The aim is to raise the profile of the institution’s commitments, get them recognised by its stakeholders and involve other organisations more widely in this approach. It is also a very good way of improving the employer brand, i.e. the institution’s ability to recruit.
  • Engage in external actions to extend the Sustainable IT approach even further. The institution can for example
    • get involved with associations working for a more sustainable IT environment;
    • produce reports that contribute to the advancement of knowledge on Sustainable IT;
    • produce digital commons: services that are open to all and/or open-source, enabling as many people as possible to use them;
    • raise awareness of Sustainable IT use among the general public, particularly in schools, for example;
    • obtain accreditation (Digital Trust Label, Label NR).

Precautions to be taken

  • Not all measurement tools are created equal, and not all will give you the same picture of your IT footprint, as measurement techniques and data currently vary widely. So it’s a good idea to look at the tool that most closely matches your measurement philosophy, and to use the same tool every year so that you don’t change your benchmark
  • Measurement should not take up too much of your time, and if it is incomplete or imperfect, it should not prevent you from taking action. Given the disparities in measurement, it is important to put the accuracy of the data into perspective: the key is in the orders of magnitude


Thematic objectives

Objective 4 - Streamlining IT equipment

4.1 Increasing equipment lifespan

Extending equipment lifespan is as much an essential step to limit the institution’s environmental impact as reducing the number of items of equipment per employee.


  • Estimate the lifespan of each piece of equipment: to make comparisons, you need to estimate the current average lifespan of the company’s digital equipment. You can also compare it with average lifetimes worldwide (cf. resources below).
  • Increase equipment lifespan by 50% compared to current average. You can start with an extra year for each equipment to work on a gradual change and set an ambitious target over time.
  • Protect portable equipment: essential to limit wear and tear (shells, protective glass, covers, etc.)
  • Carry out regular(software?) updates to ensure a standard level of use and limit the risk of the equipment slowing down.
  • Carry out preventative maintenance to avoid untimely breakdowns that can damage the equipment on the one hand, and on the other, mechanically encourage the desire to change equipment.
  • Restart devices regularly: restarting empties the computer’s cache and “tidies up” the data on the computer. This prevents slowdowns.
  • Repair equipment: preventative measures are not always enough. However, if your equipment breaks down, repair it first rather than replace it.
  • Determine an incentive linked to lifespan extension: the incentive makes it possible to encourage virtuous behaviour by taking care of one’s equipment. The incentive can be valued in terms of exemplarity or materiality or based on the promise of better quality equipment at the next renewal, for example.


4.2 Encouraging re-using and recycling

The institution is responsible for the end-of-life of its equipment. The end of life, or rather the end of the first life, leads to two possibilities: the second life of the equipment or its recycling. This objective aims at:


  • Promoting the extension of equipment lifetimes by contributing to the development of the circular economy through reuse
  • Limiting the extraction of new raw materials to manufacture equipment through recycling


  • Give equipment a second life. If your equipment is still functional but its performance no longer meets the requirements of the use to which it was originally put, the institution can consider giving it a second life. This second life can be internal (allocation to less demanding professions in terms of equipment performance) or external (e.g. redistribution to schools or non-profit associations).
  • Recycle equipment. Recycling should only be considered after attempting to repair the equipment and/or deciding on a second life for the equipment. Be careful when choosing a recycling partner, as subcontracting is very common. The institution must be sure of the final destination.


4.3 Reducing and limiting the number of devices per employee.

Most of the environmental impact of digital technology comes from the manufacture of equipment. The carbon impact of terminals is more evenly distributed between use and manufacture, depending on the energy mix in the country of use. The first challenge is therefore to find ways of reducing the number of items of equipment per employee.


  • Question the usefulness of purchased and attributed equipment. For each trade and function, refer to the 3U rule. This rule poses 3 key questions to assess the relevance of an action: is the digital equipment really useful? Usable? Used?
  • Reduce the number of additional screens. Working with more than 1 screen is allowed only where necessary.
  • Consider equipping employees with BYOD, COPE or CYOD (Bring Your Own Device / Corporate Owned – Personally Enabled / Choose Your Own Device). Adopting one or other of the following techniques can encourage mixed-use (personal and professional) on the same terminal.
    • BYOD allows each employee to work with their own equipment.
    • COPE authorises the personal use of equipment provided by the institution.
    • CYOD is similar to COPE, but in this case, the institution provides a list from which employees can choose the equipment that suits them best.
  • Establish teleworking rules. Do not duplicate every piece of equipment on employees’ workstations at home. For example, the use of VPNs enables home working without the risk of data leaks onto employees’ networks and can therefore be combined with choices to move towards BYOD or COPE.
  • NB : if the equipment is used both for business and privately, the carbon impacts should be allocated in the company’s balance sheet according to the percentage of the used for business purposes.


  • Sustainable IT Good practices Guide for institutions, published by the Institute for Sustainable IT (ISIT), the DINUM (France), version 1, FR, June 2023

Objective 5 - Reducing the environmental impact of IT

5.1 Promoting the procurement of digital equipment with reduced environmental impact

Procurement plays a central role, since manufacturing accounts for most of the environmental footprint of equipment. It is therefore important to find ways of procuring equipment that has the lowest possible impact on the environment. This objective aims at:

  • Reducing the replacement of equipment by purchasing more sustainable equipment.
  • Reducing procurement costs by buying second-hand and limiting the number of purchases to essential items.
  • Reducing running costs with more energy-efficient equipment that consumes less energy.


  • Buy labelled/certified equipment: even if labels are not a systematic guarantee of the best product, they do provide a mark of confidence in the equipment and indicate compliance with certain standards. Choosing equipment that is EPEAT certified, has the TCO label or Blue Angel Label, or complies with the EnergyStar standard is a particularly useful way of making an initial selection and opting for equipment whose manufacturer is seeking to reduce its environmental footprint. You can also refer to the repairability index of the equipment if it exists.
  • Check the equipment’s carbon footprint before you buy.
  • Buy second-hand equipment: by buying second-hand products, you can extend the lifespan of an equipment and therefore avoid having to buy new products.

5.2 Developing low-impact digital services (website, applications, software)

Using digital technology to provide solutions that reduce the carbon impact of Energy-efficient digital services limits their environmental footprint at every stage of the lifecycle.
The broader concept of sustainable design of digital services includes the issue of accessibility. Thus, a sustainable digital service is said to be accessible because it encourages use by as many people as possible if:


  • it is compatible with older equipment;
  • it is compatible with disabled users;
  • it’s also quick to access because it’s lightweight and simple to use it focuses on essential functions, and therefore has a reduced environmental footprint.

Working on the web accessibility of a digital service can considerably reduce its carbon footprint. The objective here is to create digital services with a reduced environmental footprint; that ensure a better user experience; aimed at more potential users.


  • Train all project teams in the eco-design of digital services, so that the approach is applied from design to implementation.
  • Use the 3U rule to determine the interest of a project first and the interest of each envisaged functionality second. This phase is the most essential for limiting the footprint of digital services.
  • Use less impacting technologies and optimise the code to make it lighter (green coding) and favour low-tech technologies.
  • Apply accessibility standards.
  • Remove (decommission) unused or obsolete developed functions.


5.3 Limiting data storage (servers, cloud, user terminals)

Data management is a key element in maintaining a lean information technology system over time. The aims of this objective are:


  • Reducing energy expenditure (and data-related costs)
  • Facilitating the work of teams in terms of using and managing the end-of-life of the data collected
  • Processing data in a secure environment


  • Reduce the volume of data stored on terminals. This action extends the life of the equipment and makes day-to-day work easier. Equipment that is not saturated with data is equipment that works well (no slowdown, no disk saturation).
  • Reduce the volume of data stored on servers / in the cloud. The less an organisation stores, the greater the financial and carbon savings. It’s also a factor of efficiency for teams: with limited storage, teams have easier access to useful and usable files.
  • Reduce the volume of personal or statistical data (e.g. website traffic) managed over the entire lifecycle.
  • Collection: the institution must refer to the 3U rule so as to capture only the data that is truly essential to its activity.
  • Management & use: use must comply with the Swiss legal framework. Security is essential, particularly when managing personal data. Finally, redundancy must be considered in order to limit duplication of data.
  • End of life: the institution must limit storage to a strictly useful period, in compliance with the legislation in force in Switzerland, and ensure that data is properly destroyed on all media on which it may have been stored.



5.4 Promoting low-impact digital interpersonal communication

With digital usage on the rise, and the trend towards increasingly sophisticated tools, it is time to rethink the way in which the institution’s staff use the web. Digital technology can be time-consuming and energy-consuming. According to a study by ADEME and ARCEP (2022) in France, 78% of the environmental impact of digital technology in terms of greenhouse gas emissions comes from manufacturing. 21% comes from the use phase, with electricity consumption accounting for 10% of total production. It should be remembered that electricity in France is particularly low in carbon compared with other European countries. 

Sustainable IT use within the institution involves the environmental issues of reducing the carbon footprint and quality of life at work.


  • Reduce the amount of internal digital communications (instant messaging, emails):
    • Less copying (limit “reply to all”);
    • Limit the number of attachments and replace them with sharing links;
    • Question the relevance of each message and email to limit the mental load on each employee.
  • Set up disconnection rules (e.g. stop sending/receiving emails after a certain time and/or during holidays, automatically switch off computers after a certain time, block access to the remote server after a certain time or at weekends).
  • In videoconferencing, switch off your camera when you are not speaking.
  • Regularly evaluate the implementation and adoption of best practices.


Objective 6 - Optimizing energy consumption

6.1 Improving the energy efficiency of servers

The information technology system can quickly become energy-intensive if it is not properly configured and maintained. The institution must pay particular attention to IT architecture, the real utility of the hosted services (3U rule) and stored data (see principle 10). This objective aims at:

  • Limiting costs for the institution
  • Meeting the challenges of energy sobriety and reducing the footprint of servers
  • Clarify the information (digital services and data) stored to improve understanding of the institution’s digital environment


When the institution has its own data centre :

  • set up a system of hot and cold aisles in the data centre;
  • use freecooling techniques to lower the temperature in the data centre;
  • maintain a temperature of 24°C in the data centre, a higher temperature than the average usually observed at most hosting providers, which does not affect the smooth running of the servers.

When the institution outsources its server hosting (cloud):

  • carefully check the environmental policy of the chosen host and the commitments made.

For digital services hosted on the institution’s servers:

  • avoid hosting services that are no longer in use;
  • limit redundancy (copy of a digital service for use as a back-up in the event of a problem with the original version).


6.2 Developing low-energy digital services (website, applications, software)

While digital technology has a definite carbon footprint, if used wisely it can also be a lever for reducing the environmental footprint of other sectors. Creating a digital solution to a given problem to reduce its footprint is known as IT for Green. It implies using innovation to tackle the climate emergency and suggesting positive ways of using digital technology.


  • Limiting costs for the institution
  • Meeting the challenges of energy sobriety and reducing the footprint of servers
  • Clarify the information (digital services and data) stored to improve understanding of the institution’s digital environment


  • Carry out a carbon footprint measurement of what we are trying to improve. IT for Green is a lever for reducing the environmental footprint of our activities. To do this, we need to ensure that the digital solution we are considering will have less impact than the initial solution. This means measuring the environmental footprint of the initial solution and comparing it with the projected footprint of the digital solution.
  • Map the rebound effects of the envisaged digital solution. A rebound effect is the postponement of certain impacts through an increase in usage that was not initially expected when a service was introduced. For example, the introduction of teleworking can be very effective in reducing the carbon impact of commuting. However, this effectiveness can be diminished by unanticipated employee travel (e.g. so-called “star” journeys with multiple return trips from home to a sales outlet rather than a single journey consisting of several stops) or even duplication between the individual heating of each teleworking employee at home and the heating within the institution, which does not vary because the surface area used remains the same.


To create a mobile application for buying and reselling second-hand clothes online, we first need to estimate the environmental impact of fashion, then the expected impact of the application in terms of reducing the fashion footprint. Be careful to take into account all the potential knock-on effects (e.g. reducing the first life of a garment by making it easier to resell, and therefore encouraging people to renew their wardrobes). Validate whether or not the solution is worthwhile. Redefine it if necessary.


Assessment and Action Plan Tool

The Assessment and Action Plan Tool suggests actions corresponding to the 6 Sustainable IT sector objectives of the Charter as a reference for an Action Plan definition. Based on an initial assessment, each institution should adopt its own actions, and develop and implement its own action plan in order to meet its own targets by 2025, 2028 and 2030.


The proposed objectives and actions are non exhaustive examples and are listed according to the Impact indicator priority with suggested targets :


Level 1 : Maximum priority

Level 2 : Highly important

Level 3 : Recommended

Sustainable IT Assessment and Action Plan Tool

2050Today Charter © 2023 by 2050Today is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0