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How the Tech Industry is Bringing Us Closer to a Carbon Neutral Future

Governments and business entities from around the world are gathering at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. There, the COP (the Conference of Parties) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is assessing the measures required to achieve the goals of the UNFCCC 2015 Paris Agreement, which aim to mitigate climate change by securing global net zero emissions by mid-century and keeping a rise of no more than 1.5 Celsius degrees in temperature within reach. As strong supporters of the Paris Agreement and the goals of COP26, ITI and our member companies are industry leaders in innovating and adopting changes that bring us closer to a carbon neutral future in several different fields.

Several companies have had award-winning reductions in carbon impact and made achievable, ambitious goals for the future. Adobe has been named to the CDP ‘A List’ for climate change for the fifth year straight—an honor awarded only to the top 2.8% of almost 10,000 companies scored by CDP. One way Adobe has accomplished this is by reducing their total energy consumption by over 10,000MWh and reducing their greenhouse gases emissions by 1,000 tons, largely by increasing renewable energy use at their facilities. Further, AMD was applauded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through green power investment and use. After upgrading all their products to meet EnergyStar guidelines, Xerox was named 2021 EnergyStar Partner of the Year. In addition, in 2020, Samsung achieved their goal of meeting 100% of the energy needs from renewable sources at all our operations in the US, Europe and China, including manufacturing. As a result, Samsung ranks among the top in EPA’s Green Power Partnership program. And, in that same year, 59.3% of the electricity consumed across IBM’s global operations came from renewable sources, surpassing its second-generation goal of 55% by 2025 five years early and Intel achieved 82% renewable electricity use and conserved 161 million kWh of energy globally.

Innovation, creativity, and collaboration have been the key to change for many companies. Apple’s recycling assistant robot (Dave) is helping decrease their carbon footprint by disassembling used iPhone components to recover “key materials such as rare earth magnets and tungsten while also enabling recovery of steel, helping move them to being 100% carbon neutral by 2030. Dell also innovated in the computer materials sphere, using BioPlastic in PCs to make environmentally friendly computers. This change eliminates 9.73 million kg of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of the energy needed to power 5,564 homes for a year.

Other tech companies are tapping into the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sphere to engineer virtual solutions to physical problems – largely in the sphere of building renovation. Building construction and operation generates nearly 40% of annual global CO2 emissions, making them an area of priority focus for renovation and reformation. Autodesk has developed 3D building information modeling tools paired with a free, open-source construction carbon calculator tool that not only extends their design ability but also gathers data about potential carbon load of projects depending on product. Accenture also has a virtual project-building technology to help improve operations, “Virtual Twins”. Oracle has developed technology that helps by streamlining project management and construction time—the less time a project takes, the smaller its environmental impact. The software also drives compliance, providing dashboards where key metrics are shown by project or vendor, making it easier to furnish reports to governments and shareholders.

With many offices looking very different operationally as a result of working from home and social distancing protocols, 2021 led many workplaces to update their spaces to maximize operational energy efficiency. Using the Internet of Things (IoT), Cognizant developed digital solutions to improve the efficiency of their buildings, focusing on chillers, air handling equipment, computer usage, and lighting, based on real time occupancy levels. In addition, Canon reduced energy use at their facilities management headquarters by 10%. Akamai increased their use of wind farms, solving one of the biggest questions about operations – how do we run data centers, which demand huge amounts of energy, sustainably? Several other member companies took huge steps towards greener offices, read more about that here.

Making the transition towards greener energy can be challenging and require high upfront costs, but some member companies found ways to make the transition easier for others. For example, Equinix has, together with ING, structured and issued a series of green bonds to finance improvements in data center energy efficiency, invest in renewables, and better manage water use and waste. VISA has also issued a green bond that will mature in August 2027 to help finance efforts that help maintain carbon neutral operations, achieve net zero emissions by 2040, and help enable sustainable commerce and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Small businesses represent 90% of the global business population and, despite widespread interest in environmental sustainability, the short-term cost of these goals is often proportionally greater than for large companies which can benefit from economies of scale. To help with this, Intuit announced a commitment to helping 1 million US small businesses cut their carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. Any small business owner in the U.S. and UK can now go to the Intuit Climate Action Marketplace, an online destination that provides resources to small businesses to reduce their carbon emissions at scale, while also helping them save money and grow their business.

Learn more about the ways ITI member companies are helping to promote and meet the goals of COP26, and read ITI’s recommendations for participating governments to further these global efforts, tackle the challenges, and seize the opportunities that climate change poses.

Public Policy Tags: Environment & Sustainability