28 March 2022

Green IT and hybrid work: towards a more responsible digital world

Green IT

Digital technology has long been seen as an alternative for more responsible consumption, but its over-consumption can lead to certain ecological limits.

Indeed, according to the latest ArchiMag report, the world’s digital sector accounts for 4% of greenhouse gases.
Moreover, data storage alone could be capable of generating emissions of up to 14% by 2040 (Source: Big Data)

To reduce this carbon footprint, the notion of Green IT has emerged to promote initiatives in favor of sustainable development and to fight against this digital pollution.

So what is Green IT?

Green IT is a set of information and communication technologies that aim to reduce the carbon footprint and contribute to achieving sustainable development goals.

The digital transition is underway, encouraging ever more digital uses, and accelerating the amount of data on a daily basis, so how can companies be made responsible for the ecological consequences of their transformation? What roles can they play in reducing digital pollution? How to promote green IT?


Hybrid work: What are the ecological impacts?

A successful digital transition...

The COVID pandemic has accelerated digital uses: videoconferencing, e-commerce, teleworking, collaborative work, the cloud, and more.

Thanks to the cloud, companies have been able to continue their business “almost” as usual by accessing data from anywhere and from any device. It has also enabled the smooth exchange of data and the continuity of collaborative work between employees.

From an ecological point of view, the use of the cloud has also facilitated:

  • The reduction or elimination of travel time to the office
  • The reduction of the use of IT equipment
  • The reduction of the amount of waste (less paper)
  • The reduction of unnecessary copies and storage.

A study has shown that switching from traditional On-Premises software applications to their Cloud equivalent could reduce energy consumption by 87%.[1]

But some limitations remain...

The cloud, sometimes affiliated with green washing, can bring a certain limit to the energy consumption of companies.

Data centers are essential for storing billions of cloud data. However, they consume a lot of electricity because they run continuously and are a great source of heat.

Air conditioning and cooling systems account for 40-50% of data center energy consumption. (Source: planetoscope)

Especially since, with the exponential use of collaborative tools and hybrid work, energy consumption is likely to increase considerably in view of the massive amount of data sharing and bandwidth required to make the services accessible 24/7 (Teams videoconferencing, SharePoint Files and OneDrive).


Digital: what responsibilities do companies hold?

If the Internet were a country, it would be the third largest consumer of electricity after China and the United States (Source Ademe)

Digital Corporate Responsibility, a new CSR issue for the adoption of Green IT within companies

In 2018, the CSR Platform set up a working group on “Corporate Digital Responsibility” (CDR). It was able to establish new questions and issues on the digital responsibility of companies.

Corporate Digital Responsibility includes the notion of:

  • Regulatory responsibility for data protection
  • Societal responsibility in relation to data management and sharing, and the transformation of working practices [3]
  • Environmental responsibility

The objectives of digital hygiene according to CSR principles

  • Helping to consume less storage space
  • Raising awareness of the digital environmental footprint
  • Helping to change data transfer habits

Digital responsibility: a growing desire among employees

The ecological dimension is becoming more and more important in companies.

85% of employees say that companies are able to act in favor of the environmental cause while promoting technological progress.

The ecological transition can take place at all levels and departments of a company: HR, Marketing or IT teams, in charge of all office equipment, data management and security, software and digital tools implemented in the company.

The CRIP has established a barometer [5] highlighting the desire of 2/3 of CIOs to make responsible digital technology a major issue within their companies, yet collaboration between IT and CSR teams is still weak. As with good security practices for collaborative tools, it remains important to run awareness campaigns among employees on IT eco-actions.

To achieve this, it is important to first adopt individual actions to improve digital sobriety in the exponential use of cloud data.


Good practices for digital hygiene

In order to optimize the loading time of the data, it is possible for a collaborator to put in place some good practices.

1. Optimizing collaboration between users

  • Lighten up your emails: Email has a strong impact on digital pollution, even though its use is steadily decreasing in favor of instant and collaborative communication tools, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. It is important to make them lighter by compressing attachments and favoring links.

The professional emails of a hundred or so employees over a period of one year are equivalent to 13 return trips from Paris to New York (source ADEME).

  • Focus on certain communication channels: In the case of a message to multiple internal recipients, it is best to use collaborative tools such as Teams to send a grouped message.

  • Optimizing the energy consumption of video conferencing: To reduce power consumption during team meetings, it is best to use your camera and screen sharing only when necessary. On average, when using video conferencing tools, audio coupled with screen sharing increases energy consumption by 14%.


2. Optimizing data loading time


  • Bookmark sites: A Google query equates to about 7 grams of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere according to INEC. If you find yourself visiting a website repeatedly, it is better to bookmark it in order to save time and reduce digital pollution.
  • Use keywords for your searches: If you enter a web address into the navigation bar, the greenhouse gas emissions generated are divided by 4. Using a search engine increases the energy consumption of the web request. It is therefore important to use clear and precise keywords when searching.
  • Close unnecessary tabs: Accumulating open tabs from different searches, without using them, increases CO2 emissions as each page reloads several times during the day.
  • Use dark mode for your collaborative tools: It is now possible for many applications to have a classic and a dark mode. This dark mode reduces energy consumption and increases battery life.

Teams black mode

3. Review your data regularly

Documents saved on computers consume a lot of memory and power and can slow it down, especially if they are on the desktop. Each employee should sort and delete data that is no longer needed to save space and avoid keeping unnecessary data.

  • Emptying the waste bin: A lot of data is stored in the recycle bin without actually being deleted. It is therefore important to regularly delete data that we are sure we will no longer need.

  • Delete unused folders: We store files that are no longer useful and take up a lot of space, such as photos and videos. To avoid infobesity, it is possible to back up useful data from the cloud to an external hard drive at any desired frequency and delete the online version.

  • Create automatic deletion rules: It is possible to create automatic deletion rules on your mailbox. This deletion saves data storage space. You can set “If” and “Then” conditions to refine your removal.

inbox rules outlook

Digital responsibility on the move

The digital transition has raised several questions about its ecological impact, particularly with the use of the cloud and collaborative tools. Some organizations are starting to look at their digital and ecological responsibilities.

The giant Microsoft, for example, is working on the Natick project to create underwater data centers to cool their servers in an environmentally friendly way.

On a smaller scale, each employee can participate in the company’s ecological system by keeping in mind good Green IT practices to promote digital sobriety.


[1] Study of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Northwestern University

[2] Marketing method consisting of communicating to the public by using the ecological argument in a misleading way to improve its image

[3] Straté

[4] White paper « Construire la sortie de crise : quelles sont les attentes des Français vis-à-vis de l’entreprise ? » produced by FreeThinking and Viavoice on the initiative of Mazars (June 2021)

[5] CRIP and TNP barometer focusing on the responsibility of the IT department in the company's CSR strategy - 70 companies interviewed

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