Free Ericsson: The Carbon Footprint Of ICT Report Example

Type of paper: Report

Topic: Carbon, Information, Footprint, Energy, Climate Change, Environment, World, Telephone

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2020/09/30

Report to Greenhouse and Energy Data Officer

Report to Greenhouse and Energy Data Officer
Ericsson is a leader in the mobile ICT (Information and Communication Technology) industry, and as such it takes a leadership position in decreasing the global carbon footprint for ICT operations. Ericsson, with headquarters in Sweden, makes developing innovative methods to increase sustainability as much of a priority as the introduction of ground-breaking technology. Ericsson was a forerunner in providing corporate responsibility to customers and taking measures to cause less environmental impact from ICT. Ericsson carried out its first environmental impact study in 1993 and published its first life cycle assessment in 1994 (Ericsson, 2013). A life cycle assessment (LCA) evaluates the units of carbon dioxide (or carbon) equivalents (CO2e) that reach the atmosphere during the entire life cycle of a product. The life cycle begins with from mining raw materials to manufacturing processes to consumer utilization until the end of the ICT use.
Ericsson is a leader in reducing the carbon footprint in ICT. Ericsson (2014) predicts the total global ICT sector’s impact on global GHG emissions to be less than two percent by 2020, although the ICT sector needs large amounts of energy. The global community is looking to sustainability practices and innovation from the ICT sector to reduce GHGs by about 17 percent (Ericsson, 2014).
The following report introduces the relevant background on ICT environmental issues so Ericsson’s accomplishments can be better understood. Data from Swedish headquarters are compared to global ICT environmental data. The degree of success that Ericsson expects to reach by 2020 is explained. Recommendations are listed in the conclusion section.

Literature Review

Carbon footprints are a type of measurement for understanding the negative environmental impact of an activity or a behavior. In the case of ICT the carbon footprint measures the amount of carbon released in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane due to the lifecycle of goods and services (Stephens 2011). Greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere are what we generally call pollution, because they intensify the greenhouse effect which influences global warming. The global move to increase sustainability in all industrial sectors is the attempt to stop using irreplaceable natural resources such as fuel oil and natural gas. Green Software Engineering is the type of engineering that measures energy efficiency and carbon footprints of software (Kern, Dick, Naumann and Hiller, 2014).

ICT Carbon Footprint Studies

The three major factors impacting ICT’s carbon footprint are employees, office space, and the ICT infrastructure (Kern et al., 2014). The main activity of employees that results in a larger carbon footprint is commenting back and forth to work (Kern et al., 2014). The heating, ventilation, and air condition in an office space influences the amount of the carbon footprint more than other features. Notice that even though commuting and heating do no directly have anything to do with software, they are necessary components of ICT’s life cycle so they must be included in the calculations. The ICT infrastructure includes the components familiar to software technology: PCs, workstations, backup storage systems, rack mount servers, server administration and uninterrupted power supply (Kern et al. 2014). The next important step is to prioritize the components causing the most carbon emissions so they can be targeted for improvement. Production and supply chain are two other components of the life cycle. Software products whether they are mobile or stationery cause an impact on the carbon footprint.
Figure 1 shows a comparison of the amount of carbon equivalents per type and number of devices in a simplified representation. The graph takes into account two workstations and server usage where the numbers on the horizontal axis represent increments of ten computers.
. kg CO2e Server Operators (Data Centres) ---- kg CO2e Desktop usage
__ __ kg CO2e ____ kg CO2e Project (including commuting)
Figure 1 Project carbon footprints versus generalized usage carbon footprint (Kern, Dick, Naumann & Hiller, 2014, p. 5)
Although the graph represents a simplified calculation, details still needed to be taken into account such as assumptions of eight-hours per day of use, for 220 days per year, one hour lunch break per day and whether or not the stand-by mode was running during the lunch break (Kern et al. 2014).
The servers (the same as term data centres used in other parts of this report) were assumed to run 24 hours a day every day of the year. The result of carbon equivalents for the PC under the above assumptions was approximately 2948 kg CO2e (5215 kW) whereas the amount calculated for the servers was about 2948 kgCO2e (5212kW) for the five years of usage (Kern et al. 2014). The result shows that seven to nine servers (depending on whether commuting was included) exceeded the carbon footprint of approximately 43 to 53 PCs (Kern et al. 2014).

High Energy Applications

The opportunity to implement positive change in LCA leads to increased efficiency and carbon footprint reduction (Telstra 2097). Decreasing Ericsson’s carbon emissions during the life cycle of ICT requires making design changes. The carbon footprint from ICT is caused by applications in high-energy call centers, “cloud computing “data centers, ultra-fast servers, complex telecommunications networks, equipment cooling devices and expensive air conditioning, the use of multiple PCs, powerful modems and ubiquitous mobile phones” (Dunn, 2010, p. 1). The amount of energy consumed by ICT operations was very high in 2007 (Whitehead, Andrews, and Shah et al. 2014a). Data centres, the nerve-centre of ICT operations centre, were found to emit about 25 percent of the global manmade CO2 (Heddeghem, Lambert, Lannoo, and Colle et al. 2014). On the other hand, the opportunity to reduce life cycle impact is optimal when designing a data centre (Whitehead et al., 2014b). The only downside is that data centre energy performance is more efficient when the performance level value is decreased (Beitelmal and Farbris, 2014). Another opportunity is available is by reducing electric costs and carbon footprint at data centres by using a cloud operator and selling carbon credits in the carbon marketplace (Le and Wright, 2014).
Figure 2 LCA at Ericsson from 1990s to 2013 (
The global ICT sector is an essential driver for sustainable development (Cecere, Corrocher, Gossart and Ozman, 2014). The environmental impact of Ericsson ICT is monitored and the data is regularly compiled. The LCA approach to sustainability from 1990s to present includes design innovations to products, equipment, and services to customers. (See fig. 2) Ericsson also creates case studies to enable sharing information towards creating a green society.

Ericsson’s Industry Status 2015

The global headquarters of Ericsson is located in Stockholm, Sweden. In early 2015, Ericsson announced its standing as the # 1 technology support system provider and the # 1 telecom services provider in the world (Ericsson, 2015). Ericsson manages 40 percent of the global mobile traffic. In order to develop the capabilities for excellent management, Ericsson technology designers developed strategies and were granted 33,000 patents. In term of services leadership, Ericsson manages networks with up to a billion subscribers. Annually, the company implements 1,500 system integration consulting projects. In another company, the activities to reach goals successfully would have entailed producing a larger carbon footprint. Ericsson meets goals to reduce the company’s carbon footprint without sacrificing business goals.
The potential predicted for 2020 by Ericsson (2014) is an expected 9.5 million mobile subscribers globally. Ninety percent of the world’s population (from six years old and higher) is predicted to have a mobile phone (Ericsson, 2014). Not only that, but by 2020 Ericsson expects to grow by 45 percent in video mobile traffic (Ericsson, 2014).

E-waste in the ICT sector and at Ericsson

Changes in electronic waste (e-waste) disposal make a great difference in the CO2e emissions for the ICT sector. E-waste consists of unused mobile phones, outdated computers, out-of-date televisions, discarded cables and all kinds of ICT hardware. Incineration of e-waste causes large amounts of CO2e emissions and landfilling the items cause cacogenic emissions causing reaction sin the atmosphere that are unhealthy (Ericsson, 2014). Recycling the materials instead of discarding ICT items cuts costs for raw materials and saves the time and energy of transporting raw materials.

Adaption and Mitigation

The ICT sector has proven itself to be very adaptable to the changes necessary to lower the industries carbon footprint. The rewards of leaving a low carbon footprint are decreased business, innovative processes, new technologies and less negative impact to the environment. Renewable energy is a factor that is increasing energy efficiency in the ICT sector. Renewable energies have a lower carbon footprint than traditional electricity production; the energy is suitable for plant energy consumption and for equipment manufacturing (Dunn, 2010). Energy savings are made in the internal running of the whole Ericsson’s company (like passive solar) and other changes, such as adapting to electric cars. Everything that uses less energy adds up to a big reduction in carbon footprint. An expected 4.52 GtCO2e can be cut from the ICT sector by adapting the ICT in high energy industries (such as air transport, shipping and construction) (Dunne, 2010). In other words, improvements in the ICT sector can positively impact industries with the highest carbon footprints.

Analysis of Results

Data was collected from Ericsson’s Energy and Carbon Report: On the Impact of the Networked Society (2013) and Ericsson’s Energy and Carbon Report: Including results from the first-ever national assessment of the environmental impacts of ICT (2014). Ericsson’s headquarters are located in Sweden. A Global Information Society Waste report by Professor Hopeton S. Dunn, West Indies University, Naumann, S. & Hiller on The Carbon Footprint of ICTs was also used as a reference on data. The data was graphed using Excel.
Dunn (2010) reports that two percent of carbon emissions per year are equal to about 8.6 metric carbon emissions per year; the ICT sector (not including broadcasting) contributes from two to 2.5 percent of total global emissions. Computer personal computers and computer monitors add about 40 percent, data centres add about 24 percent, and the total of fixed and mobile telecommunications add about 24 percent to the total global carbon emissions (Dunn, 2010). Reducing the ICT footprints requires innovative designs and detailed planning of complex processes, but the sector expects to successfully make the changes necessary by recycling, process efficiencies and relying on innovative new network configurations.
Figure 3 Decreasing total carbon from 1995 to 2020 (Ericsson 2013)
The amount of carbon emissions decreased from approximately 300 kg/CO2e in 1995 to 100 kg/CO2e in 2007 and reduced again to 80 kg/CO2e by 2020 (Ericsson, 2013). (See fig. 3) The results of GHG emission measurements are displayed in the graphs below.
Figure 4 Annual amounts of GHG Emissions versus per Device type (Ericsson 2013)
Figure 3 shows that the annual amount of green house gas (GHG) emissions catagorized by the device type. The highest energy users in Sweden are data centres, PCs, and other items customers keep on their premises (Ericsson, 2014). A total of 1.2 percent of Sweden’s GHG emissions are from ICT and equaled about 1.5 Mtonnes CO2e in 2010 (Ericsson, 2014). The three categories causing the highest emissions are Fixed DSL broadband, Office LAN pc, and IPTV (high use) applications so those devices are targeted for devising reductions in impacts.
Figure 5 LCA GHG emissions by process component (Ericsson, 2014)
The LCA of the Sony Xperia™ phone is shown in Figure 5. The largest component causing GHG emissions during its life cycle is the production component. The use of the phone is the next highest with 18 percent of the GHG emissions generated. The manufacture of the phone offers the most opportunity for reducing CO2e by using recycled materials from discarded, ICT items, using renewable energies to power the production process, as well as other mitigation techniques. Monitoring the efficiency of processes regularly, for example, enables making corrections where energy is wasted.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The reason the ICT sector can make such a large improvement is the coupling of increasing numbers of customers and innovations to reduce the carbon footprints. Decreasing Ericsson’s carbon emissions during the life cycle of ICT devices requires making design changes in servers; the data centres. Energy efficiencies need to be incorporated into the manufacturing process and the supply chain. The disposal of the server at the end of use and the rest of the e-waste must be handled responsibly.

The following are recommendations.

The greatest challenge is balancing energy use reduction and the increasing use of ICT.
Make ICT processes increasingly energy efficient by carryout LCA to learn the best places to lower the carbon footprint (Kern et al., 2014).

Use smart and safe practices for handling e-wastes included recycling parts and materials from old products (Dunn, 2010).

Reduce electric costs and carbon footprint at data centres by using a cloud operator (Le and Wright, 2014).
Sell carbon credits in the carbon marketplace (Le and Wright, 2014).


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