“The third energy revolution is the combination of renewable energy, digital technology and smart grids,” emphasised Nicolas Hulot in his introduction to the Energy Transition Forum in March 2018.
Our world is adapting to digital technology, and must incorporate the environmental dimension to develop responsibly and ensure its long-term future.
Reducing the environmental footprint of digital tech is a challenge we must all face collectively. Designing better environmental policies, supporting digital innovation on behalf of the environment and mobilising the potential of data are all essential as we consider our future. This was underlined by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) in its white paper “Using the digital transition to accelerate the ecological transition”.
The challenge today is to set the digital transition, already under way, to work on behalf of the ecological transition and its long-term goals. This convergence is a great opportunity to make digital players, and thus cybersecurity companies, an essential pillar of tomorrow’s economy. We must therefore rethink our relationships with resources and place them on a more responsible footing. As we implement an unprecedented recovery plan, the time seems ideal to change our habits sustainably.
If the internet was a country, it would be the sixth-biggest energy consumer and the seventh-biggest CO2 emitter on the planet, according to 2019 figures from France’s ministry of the ecological transition. In 2019, the global digital sector represented around 34 billion digital devices (excluding peripherals) manufactured, linked and supplied with electricity. Still according to GreenIT 2019, the global impact of digital represents the equivalent in terms of greenhouse gas emissions of 116 million journeys round the world by car, 242 billion nine-litre cases of mineral water and 82 million electric radiators (1000 watts) working continuously.
These figures challenge us to think about how we can reduce the environmental impact of digital technology, and more broadly how we can drive synergies between the digital and ecological transitions.
The major players have already taken steps in this direction, such as Atos with its decarbonisation plan. “Organizations across all sectors are becoming increasingly convinced of the need to re-evaluate their relevance and impact, with a more balanced perspective on business values and drivers […] to tackle tomorrow’s long-term challenges concerning sustainability, decarbonization, inequality, security and the ethical impact of IT,” explains John Hall, editor-in-chief of Journey 2024 within the Atos scientific community. Orange has also deployed its 2040-focused strategy with the goal of achieving net zero carbon ten years ahead of the sector’s targets. This ambition builds on the climate commitments made when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. But this ambitious digital vision cannot keep its promises without cybersecurity. As an innovative SME and responsible player, we must therefore incorporate these elements into the designs for our solutions and use them as a guiding thread in our corporate philosophy. Ultimately, an environmentally responsible approach in the development of our software platform should become a commercial advantage and facilitate the cyber user experience. By reducing the quantity of resources needed – through sharing and automation – the impact can be reduced mechanically.
Ecology is also meaningful for our fellow-citizens, and particularly the younger generations, who are also digital natives. We must give meaning to this digital transition by making it work to resolve ecological challenges while reducing the environmental costs generated by massive flows of data. By reconciling these two worlds, we can give future generations the power to make sustainable changes. “Digital helps us respond to the challenges of sustainable development through an urban ecology strategy designed to help us live better in cities,” explains Mauna Traikia, the Plaine Commune digital development advisor and local councillor for economic development in Epinay-sur-Seine, who sees trusted digital technology used every day by the local authority’s staff to develop actions promoting environmental protection.
“Depending on the way in which the new products and services delivered by digital technologies are designed and used, and directed and regulated by the public authorities, they will either facilitate or, on the contrary, obstruct the ecological transition. [With regard to autonomous vehicles] depending on the scenario, automation could either halve or double energy consumption for mobility. The future is not written, but it is being written today,”  explains Damien Demailly, Strategy and Communication Director at the Institute for Climate Economics and member and coordinator of the IDDRI white paper.
Always committed to protecting the environment, we support the #OCEANINITIATIVES action, a programme to raise awareness of the environmental cause in primary schools and to organise beach-cleaning sessions on the Mediterranean coast. Convinced that we must go further, EGERIE intends to combine respect for the environment with digital technology in rethinking its innovation and development model along more environmentally responsible lines.