Greening by ICT innovation

The energy efficiency of network technology is just one part of the picture when it comes to tackling carbon. Let's look at the concept of climate resilience and why widespread digitization is key to sustainability.
Klaus Grobe

At ADVA, we’re serious about sustainability. In fact, it’s built into every aspect of our operations. Our approved SBTi targets are in line with the COP26 goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. We’re also TIA Gold-rated, and Eco-Vadis recently awarded us their Platinum rating in the areas of environment, ethics, sustainable procurement, and labor and human rights. 

With such a strong record for external ratings on environmental impact, we now come to the new EU framework intended to illustrate how sustainable certain economic activities are. It’s known as the EU Taxonomy and is meant to be a tool to guide governmental decisions and market investments as the EU seeks to reach its goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. 

The difficulty it poses for us is that it doesn’t reflect the potential that ICT technologies have to make real sustainability changes. That means it’s simply not possible to quantify and report on the amount of revenue and spending related to our technology that is directly linked to eligible climate-change activities.

Digitizing and decarbonizing

In our sector, “greening by ICT” and its potential for climate change mitigation is far greater than greening ICT itself (through improved efficiency and processes around ICT equipment). To give a concrete example of what it can mean in practice, think about how the Covid-19 pandemic reduced travel and saw a record fall in greenhouse gasses, while for most of us work continued as normal. 

The greening by ICT effect has significant potential to help decarbonize other industries, among them transport, energy, agriculture, waste disposal, finance; the list is very long. The more other sectors become digitized – or further digitized – the more energy-efficient they become. By leveraging advances such as 5G and cloud computing, businesses and utilities are becoming more sustainable than ever before with global emissions savings potentially ten times higher than the emissions the ICT sector generates itself.

Greening by ICT is an area where ADVA can potentially make its greatest contribution to enabling climate change mitigation. It’s just not possible to objectively quantify. For us to report on how ADVA is enabling climate-change mitigation across the world, we would have to somehow put a figure on how all of our customers’ ICT services improve their energy efficiency and help reduce overall global emissions. 

As for the more tangible figures we can report on, ADVA leads the way in the industry by continually improving the power efficiency of its products. This reduces ours and our customers’ overall emissions output. Yet, because as a planet we are now certain to experience further warming, the area of climate change adaptation is just as crucial. We must do what we can to adapt to a radically changed world. That means mitigating the worst effects of global warming via technology and innovation.

Global emissions savings are potentially ten times higher than the emissions the ICT sector generates itself.
Climate resilience

There are many uncertainties concerning climate change but we can already see that, with a warmer planet, extreme weather becomes more of a feature.  And we can also be confident that raw materials will become relatively scarce. This is why our strategy for climate change adaptation includes more robust supply chains, a move towards circular economy business models, and smarter more resilient network architecture.

With innovation like our FSP 3000 open optical transport technology, we’re helping networks become more resilient. Our solutions are able to function even in the harshest of environmental conditions. 
Our ALM fiber monitoring solution is another example of how we’re helping build more resilience and redundancy into networks. The solutions is used to efficiently isolate faults in the fiber, so even in the event of an extreme weather event, such as a heatwave or a flood, action can always be taken quickly to restore services.

At the same time, the infrastructure that our economies and lives depend on has never been more reliant on weak and highly vulnerable satellite signals. That’s why we’ve engineered our comprehensive assured positioning, navigation and timing (aPNT) platform to protect critical network infrastructure such as national power grids with the most effective defense-in-depth strategies for GNSS-based timing.

A greener digital future

The fact is that internet bit rates are rising exponentially, meaning that the amount of electricity the ICT sector uses globally is set to far exceed the 2% it currently uses. Part of the reason for this is, as I’ve already mentioned, is this greening by ICT effect. As the world’s cities become smarter and more sectors become digitized by leveraging new 5G networks and the cloud, higher emissions within the ICT sector proportionally will be the inevitable result. 

But it’s the net effect of all these changes that is the most important factor at play here, because greening by ICT is a key way the planet can curtail its overall greenhouse gas emissions and limit warming.

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