New technologies in the service of sustainability

New technologies in the service of sustainability

An expert view through three committed voices

Often perceived as a path to dematerialisation, the digital revolution actually has a significant material footprint. Behind every screen, behind every connection, major environmental challenges are emerging. Three experts, Laetitia Georgel of IMS, Laura Mathieu of Fujitsu Luxembourg and Eleonora Tasciotti of La Mondiale Europartner, examine the impact of new technologies on these issues. This article explores their perspectives and shows how, despite the obvious challenges, these innovations can become levers for sustainable solutions.

The reality of the digital footprint

Laetitia Georgel, Project Manager at IMS, opens the debate by highlighting the scale of the material footprint behind the digital revolution. Nearly 50 billion connected objects, millions of relay antennas and servers provide connectivity to more than 5 billion users worldwide, she warns. Asked about the environmental impact, Laetitia explains : To fully understand the impact of digital technology, we need to look at the entire life cycle of these devices. The production of these devices requires huge resources, including significant amounts of water and mined materials. Figures also show that the digital sector contributes to over 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The manufacturing phase of end-user devices accounts for most of the environmental impact.

The end-of-life phase of digital tools raises major concerns, illustrated by alarming images of open dumps of electronic waste. These concerns are compounded by challenges such as inadequate recycling, due to the complexity of separating used minerals, and programmed obsolescence, which generates waste at an unsustainable rate.

In a broader context, the social impact of the life cycle of digital tools is becoming clear. Despite the existence of new regulations, the extraction of materials for the manufacture of end-user devices is not always carried out in socially acceptable conditions. In addition, the digital divide and growing illiteracy are a reality.

At IMS, Laetitia Georgel stresses the need to make companies aware of these multiple impacts. There is a real opportunity to create general governance and adopt more sustainable practices, whether in purchasing, in policies on the use of digital terminals, or by promoting refurbished equipment. Involving everyone, whether employees, consumers, or users, is an absolute priority for responsible business practices.

Businesses as change agents

When asked about the role of companies in sustainability, Laetitia Georgel says : By making massive use of digital resources, companies have the opportunity to change their practices and become levers for sustainable action, and that’s what we try to communicate through our awareness-raising workshops.

She explains that workshops and concrete projects, such as the Digital Challenge and Digital Wellbeing for Youth, are set up to raise awareness and encourage more sustainable practices. The Tech Well project, in partnership with organisations in Luxembourg, promotes digital literacy for the responsible use of digital tools. The Digital Skills Partnership promotes digital partnerships between business and the social sector to share skills and solve challenges.

Fujitsu and La Mondiale : concrete approaches to sustainability

Laura Mathieu, Head of Digital and Sustainability at Fujitsu Luxembourg, shares her perspective on sustainability in the services sector. There are various aspects to consider, including the hardware side, with the supply of equipment such as laptops and servers. However, in Luxembourg we are more focused on creating intelligent platforms and tools.

Fujitsu aims to make a positive impact by designing its tools to be accessible, multilingual and to solve societal problems. The data generated by these tools helps to identify areas for improvement, in line with initiatives such as CSRD, which uses digital reporting to highlight problems and trigger solutions.

Our methodology, which we have been using for several years, is divided into three phases. First, we understand our customers’ needs through workshops and interviews. Then there’s the iterative reflection phase to implement solutions pragmatically. Finally, implementation, where we select technologies that meet the needs we have identified. More recently, we have integrated ESG considerations into these three phases, looking at sustainability issues throughout the process. This includes thinking about best practice from the outset, implementing accessibility standards during implementation, and training developers to optimise code while ensuring accessibility. These elements are now an integral part of our approach, enabling us to intelligently support our clients in their thinking and implementation.”

This proven methodology has been implemented to support AG2R La Mondiale in the development of its digital platform.

La Mondiale Europartner : towards responsible dematerialisation

Eleonora Tasciotti, Head of Digital Transformation & ESG at La Mondiale Europartner, explains the initial objective of the collaboration : In compliance with current regulations on contractual information, we send more than 500,000 pages a year from Luxembourg to customers, mainly abroad. The request to dematerialise the savings made came both from the company’s desire to reduce the impact of postal mailings and from the growing demands of customers who are increasingly sensitive to the environmental impact of paper. She explains how La Mondiale Europartner worked with Fujitsu on a POC to design a secure, insured area where customers could find contract documents in dematerialised form. Throughout the POC, we integrated eco-design practices to minimise the environmental impact of the solution to be developed.

Eleonora Tasciotti says : Eco-design was integrated from the outset, with carefully considered decisions to limit functionality to the essentials. In terms of internal initiatives, we involve our employees in awareness-raising campaigns, for example on responsible digital best practice or by sharing the new policy on the right to disconnect. For future challenges, we will seek to extend this sustainable approach to our other stakeholders, including our suppliers.”

Laetitia Georgel adds : There are local initiatives. One example is ’GRÉNGE WEB’, an initiative coordinated by EBL (Emweltberodung Lëtzebuerg a.s.b.l.). It’s still in the pilot phase, but the tool can already be used to measure the environmental performance of a website. The idea is to make an initial assessment. The company then has the opportunity to work with its developers to modify its site to make it lighter. And if the improvements made are significant enough, the company will award the GRÉNGE WEB label, which guarantees this approach.

Moving towards a sustainable digital future

With the introduction of new regulations, we’re seeing an increase in the number of calls for tender. Sustainability criteria are now an integral part of these requests. However, companies are still finding their way around how to address these issues in a digital project. Awareness is growing, but many don’t know where to start, says Laura Mathieu.

Eleonora Tasciotti explains : As a B2B2C company, we’re dealing with insurance intermediaries with varying degrees of maturity when it comes to sustainability. However, we see a mobilisation when the request comes from the end customer, which is quite positive. Laura Mathieu adds : The entire value chain is involved. At Fujitsu Luxembourg, we see a real commitment from our employees, who regularly make suggestions. We have also set up an internal working group to collect ideas.”

The same approach can be seen among IMS members : We are trying to integrate these concerns into all areas of the business. We had a purchasing club in September that focused specifically on sustainable digital. We’re thinking about how to extend this approach in 2024. It has become an issue that no longer just concerns IT, but all business units, which is very encouraging, concludes Laetitia Georgel.

Despite the environmental and social challenges, the experts agree on one optimistic conclusion : businesses can play a positive role in sustainability. The journey towards sustainable digital management is underway, with concrete initiatives and promising collaborations. Digitalisation is inevitable, but it must be managed responsibly to maximise its benefits while minimising its negative impacts. Businesses, increasingly open to these new practices, seem ready to embrace this transition to a sustainable digital future.

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Publié le lundi 8 janvier 2024
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