UK Greening Government ICT Report includes Dr. Sutton-Parker’s analysis of scope 3 emissions across 13 departments for the first time – and the potential to reduce them by 44%
The Greening Government ICT and Digital Services strategy defines what is required from ICT professionals and the wider procurement community to meet sustainable ICT challenges and opportunities. It provides information on the performance of the government and other public sector bodies who make up the STAR (Sustainable Technology Advisory and Reporting) group.
The report documents departmental progress against the strategy for the sustainability benefits and impacts of their digital services and technologies and identifies challenges in adopting best practices to reduce the sustainability impacts of their technology services.
In total 34 departments and agencies have been engaged in this process (up from 25 in the previous year), covering 603,000 members of staff, with all contributors providing returns for ICT energy footprints and ICT waste figures.
The new research data created by Dr. Sutton-Parker, covers the scope 3 / embodied emissions caused by the manufacture, packaging, transport and disposal of ICT equipment.
The report highlights the following key metrics by which the success of the strategy should be assessed:
- ICT Waste – Zero to Landfill and an increase in re-use
- A reduction in our on-premise ICT carbon footprint from moving to more efficient products and services
- Adopting e-conferencing services as preferred meeting technique (reducing attendee travel)
- All services being assessed at procurement and through life for climate, geopolitical, sustainability and social risks
- Alignment with the Greening Government Commitments
The following Departments, Agencies and Organisations contributed to the report:
Cabinet Office, Care Quality Commission, CDIO, Crown Commercial Service, Crown Prosecution Service, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Department for Transport, Department for Work and Pensions, Department Health and Social Care, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Department of Education, Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, Government Digital Service, Health Education England, Health Research Authority, Highways England, HM Revenue and Customs, HM Treasury, Home Office, Land Registry, Marine Management Organisation, Met Office, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, National Highways, Natural England, NHS Digital, NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Resolution, North Sea Transition Authority, Northern Lighthouse Board, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Ofgem, The Climate Change Committee, The Coal Authority, The Environment Agency, The Insolvency Service, Trinity House and the Vehicle Certification Agency.
The report also identifies some important trends, including:
- Increased consumption – ICT carbon, energy consumption and waste totals have increased through digitisation
- Data gaps – The need for data to be accurate, “live” and accessible to drive and inform government policy and focus departmental strategy and action
- Sustainable procurement – It was identified that sustainable procurement is not well adopted and requires urgent focus across government to best manage risks, ensure business resilience and deliver sustainable outcomes
- Increased supplier engagement – Work is ongoing with suppliers to improve knowledge around the government digital footprint
Scope 3 Emissions Data in the Report
To help provide actionable data for the report, Dr. Sutton-Parker used summary ICT asset profile data generated during the annual scope 2 ICT emissions calculation the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to determine the current ICT supply chain carbon footprint and highlight areas offering substantial future abatement.
This involved PX3‘s CEO and Chief Scientist Dr. Justin Sutton Parker calculating scope 3 (embodied) emissions across 13 of the STAR group members, using methodologies, frameworks and applications developed during his PhD research conducted with the University of Warwick Computer and Urban Science faculty. Produced through close working with DEFRA, the findings include:
- Analysis of emissions by device type – Computers, displays, communications, networking, imaging & print and AV
- Tangible analogies – Representation of the data in UK car miles to provide accessible data
- Impact analysis (extended life) – The potential emissions savings by retaining devices for longer
- Impact analysis (selection) – The potential emissions savings by choosing “best in class”
The report features some huge numbers in its analysis of government emissions and potential abatement:
- Individual staff energy consumption is estimated to be 1,546 kWh/year (181 kWh lower than last year)
- There are more than 3m ICT devices in use across government
- These devices are responsible for embodied emissions totalling more than 718,000,000 kg CO2e
- As an analogy that’s equivalent to more than 2.6 billion car miles
- Savings of over 50% for EUC devices are possible when highly sustainable options are selected
- Overall Px3 identified 316,228,557 kg CO2e in potential emissions savings – equivalent to having an additional 104,720 acres of mature forest removing pollution from the atmosphere 1
Px3 applauds both the intention of the report and the progress identified. In recognition of the potential impact Px3 the took the decision to provide the research and analysis (together with our Dynamic Carbon Footprint tool) free of charge to the STAR group and DEFRA to promote improved awareness and actionable data around ICT sustainability.
By taking this strategic, data-led approach and focusing on scope 3 emissions and supply chain, DEFRA and the STAR group and ensuring that they can have maximum impact across the public sector and its key suppliers, as well as providing an exemplar to other organisations.
Commenting on Px3‘s contribution the report, Adam Turner, UK Government & Public Sector Head Sustainable Digital & ICT, DEFRA said “STAR pioneers, and is responsible for, the reduction of the government’s ICT carbon footprint. This is especially important within the supply chain when the majority of environmental impact occurs. Having access to never previously available scope 3 data is essential to evolving our policies, procurement practices, accurate government reporting and ensuring our technology partners focus on low carbon footprint production and supply.“
To read the full Greening Government ICT Annual Strategy Report please visit the UK Government publications site here.
1 Sutton-Parker, J. (2022), ‘Determining United Kingdom government information and communications technology scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions’. Warwick, UK: University of Warwick, Computer and Urban Science Dept.