Digital companies – defined as those that produce and sell ICT equipment, operate telecommunication networks, and provide software and other information technology services – are at the forefront of global greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction efforts.
According to a new report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) entitled ‘Greening digital companies: Monitoring emissions and climate commitments’, digital companies accounted for seven of the top ten largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy in 2020. This makes up almost half of the renewables purchased globally that year.
Corporate energy sourcing is a crucial factor as countries strive to cut their emissions under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, said, “It is no secret that as we increase our use of technology services, networks, and devices, energy consumption and emissions increase in tandem. But digital technologies can be part of the solution, too. They can directly address challenges related to climate change, help scale up renewable energy markets, support smart power grids and smart metering for buildings, and of course enable emissions reductions from our work through solutions like video conferencing."
Overall, the 150 tech companies covered by the study consumed 425 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in 2020, around 1.6 percent of the world's total; around one-third of which are renewable.
Moreover, nearly a quarter (38) of them are on track to become carbon neutral by 2030, with several aiming to be carbon negative soon after. If other digital companies would emulate those currently leading in the quest for carbon neutrality, it could make ICT one of the greenest sectors of the global economy, the report asserts.
“Tech companies are an essential part of the global economy," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “This new study serves as a roadmap to drive all these companies towards net-zero emissions. This is the way to ensure today's digital transformation accelerates climate action – and to do so before it's too late."