Digital Sustainability (full report)

Role: Author

This report is an introduction to digital sustainability and a net-positive approach.

Digital sustainability is the means by which digitalisation,
as a key part of the fourth industrial revolution, can deliver on
the global sustainability goals. In this report, when we refer to ICT solutions, we mean any solution that is enabled by digitalisation: not only classical ICT solutions such as teleworking, but also many of the new innovative solutions, including most new business models based on services rather than products, as these require ICT systems.

In a net-positive approach, the focus is on how an organisation can provide the sustainable solutions that are needed in various different parts of society, beyond its own operation. This differs from a traditional sustainability perspective, in which the focus is on philanthropy and the
organisation’s negative impacts over its life cycle.

Link to full report 

Digital Sustainability (abridged version)

Role: Author

This is an introduction to digital sustainability and a net-positive approach for companies, as well as an overview of how Cybercom is working with clients to deliver sustainable solutions. Net positive is an approach in which the focus is on how a company, primarily through its goods and services, can provide the sustainable solutions that are needed in various parts of society. This differs from a traditional sustainably perspective, which tends to consider only the company’s negative impacts over the lifecycle.

Link to the abridged version

Transformative Step of the Day during COP-17 (competition)

Role: Project coordinator

At COP17 in Durban, the Transformative Step of the Day initiative was launched in conjunction with the global climate negotiations to increase focus on transformative low-carbon solutions and how they can be supported in the process.

The purpose is to facilitate dialogue between policymakers and solution providers on how transformative solutions can be promoted in the climate negotiations and beyond.

This will support the goal that transformative low-carbon solutions are recognized in relevant parts of the climate negotiations, and that initiatives accelerating their uptake are recognized.

Government leaders and solution sectors will present concrete examples of transformative low-carbon solutions from around the world directly to the negotiators in order to demonstrate the need to support their accelerated uptake.

Short video from Christiana Figueres welcoming transformative step of the day

Short video from Georg Kell welcoming transformative step of the day

Short video from Achim Steiner welcoming transformative step of the day

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Norway and global leadership in the 21st Century: Supporting transformative low carbon ICT solutions (Report)

Role: authour

Main conclusions regarding Norway’s domestic situation:
+      World-class connectivity.
+      IT interested population.
+      Well functioning communication between ministries and sectors.
+      World leading use and development of many low-carbon ICT solutions.
+      Vision of a zero carbon and innovative future.
+      “Leading” in many macro trends, such as ICT literacy, aging, understanding of the need to shift from a natural resource based economy to a service economy.

-       Focus almost exclusively on the supply-side when it comes to low-carbon solutions, with additional focus on incremental improvements within existing systems. Very little focus on transformative solutions that can be used by 9 billion people, i.e. the future we are heading towards.
-       While there is a broad agreement on the need to move towards a zero carbon future with transformative solutions, few concrete work plans exist to implement such solutions.
-       While communication is well functioning and friendly between ministries actual collaboration around transformative projects is often lacking, making transformative solutions that require cross sectorial/ministry collaboration difficult to implement.  Instead much of the focus is on incremental improvements within current areas of responsibility.
-       The policies and targets for climate change and CO2 reductions still focus on addressing problems, not creating solutions.
-       There is lack of clarity in terms of where the responsibility lies for low-carbon ICT support or transformative solutions as this is spread over a number of ministries. Ministries responsible for different ICT aspects have an understanding of the potential, but the Ministry of Environment has not moved beyond “sector by sector” and problem oriented approaches, and current goals are focusing on incremental CO2 reductions.

Much of the above could change fast, for example in the fall of 2011 when a new climate policy for Norway might be presented, but today there is a rapidly growing tension in Norway between “the first-generation of environmentalism” and what could be described as an emerging “second-generation of environmentalism”.  

The first-generation identified problems, especially polluting companies, and tried to address the problem through incremental improvements within existing systems and through end-of-pipe solutions using a national perspective. The second-generation focuses on transformative solutions, especially solution clusters, with new and innovative ways of providing services. The perspective of the second-generation of environmentalism is global and the definition of sustainable is that the service can be provided in a sustainable way for nine billion people. The second-generation thus represents a shift away from incremental solutions within existing unsustainable systems.

The first generation is institutionalized though the bodies responsible for “environmental issues”. While many working with the first-generation of environmentalism intellectually understand the need for a shift towards a new approach and frequently arrange seminars, produce reports, etc about the second-generation of environmentalism, the focus (including targets and capacity) is almost exclusively on incremental CO2 reductions within existing sectors with a national focus.

Norway can be described as a world leader in the first-generation of environmentalism. This leadership seems to have resulted in a situation where those in charge of “environmental” issues are intellectually grasping the need for a new approach, but the structures, traditions, mandate, etc push them back to a first-generation approach.

Norway has great potential to become a world leader in the second-generation of environmentalism, building on many interesting initiatives. The challenges should however not be underestimated and Norway needs to think in terms of leapfrogging and making significant changes in the current organizational structures in order to be able to play a relevant international role in the second-generation of environmentalism.

Instead of a better car, the focus is on smart working, resulting in promotion of teleworking. Instead of better airplanes the focus is on smart meetings, resulting in promotion of videoconferencing. Instead of better paper production the focus is on smart reading, resulting in e-books. Instead of CCS the focus is on smart buildings that provide lighting, a comfortable temperature, etc while being net producers of renewable energy at the same time.

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Transformative transparency (Report)

Role: Author

Transformative transparency occurs at the threshold point at which massive amounts of data on goods, services, or even individuals, can be accessed instantly, in ways that allow users, or programs, to make decisions and provide immediate feed-back.

At such a point, an interactive “reality search engine,” i.e, a situation in which objects and events in reality, not words or sentences on the web, are processed, becomes possible.

This requires an infrastructure with high connectivity and a critical mass of users who engage with this information. The current situation with smart phones and connected devices indicates that we have just arrived at this point.

Full report here


Guadalajara ICT Declaration for Transformative Low-Carbon Solutions (Declaration)

Role: Project leader

To date the principal focus of the global climate change negotiations has been on the initial CO2 emission reduction targets as agreed under the Kyoto Protocol, about 5% reductions.

Recent evidence shows it is now time to shift focus on piece- meal carbon emission problems to focus on solutions that can help to avoid emissions all together, or that can deliver signi - cant reductions such as 30% or more by 2020.

In order to deliver on the promise of such transformative emis- sion reductions, more engagement of strategic private sector innovation and technology is critical, as is supporting govern- ment planning and policies.

The undersigned believe that COP16 in Cancun can be a turning point in the global climate change negotiations by initiating a dedicated work stream for low carbon ICT and increasingly broadband solutions to play a transformative role in decreasing global emissions.

The ICT sector is fully committed to do its part in furthering this agenda, and actively engaging with governments and negotiators going forward.

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Assessment of Global Low-Carbon and Environmental Leadership in the ICT Sector (Report)

Role: author with Simon Mingay


The information and communication technology (ICT) industry and its individual providers are at an important juncture. Are they really going to commit themselves to the necessary investments to develop low-carbon and environmental solutions during a period when, with some exceptions (such as energy-efficient ICT equipment, intelligent buildings and smart grids), the markets for any such solutions are at best emerging? We look at which providers are placing their bets and developing the capabilities that will make them effective innovation partners for enterprises and give them platforms for leadership in a low-carbon and more sustainable economy.

Key Findings

During 2009 and 2010, there has been rapid progress in the maturity of ICT vendors in terms of their internal environmental programs and in terms of the development of a set of low-carbon market offerings. The dominance of talking in 2008 has evolved into a lot more action in 2010 in terms of suitable products, services development and policy- related activity.

We now have a clear group of market makers (BT, IBM, Cisco, Ericsson, HP, Fujitsu and SAP) that we believe are beginning to build distinguishing capabilities.

The 2008 leaders, such as IBM, BT, Ericsson, Fujitsu and HP, have maintained their relatively strong positions with good, well-rounded low-carbon and environmental programs, improving their own internal performance, and developing market-facing solutions ranging from more-energy-efficient ICT equipment and mobile phone networks, through logistics and transportation, to solutions that enable smart grids.

Aside from the important task of making ICT equipment more energy efficient, and a couple of particularly hot areas such as smart grids, developing solutions for a low- carbon economy is definitely not yet "core business."

With a couple of exceptions, the industry is hobbled by the short-term incremental sustainability-related goals that it is setting for itself, rather than setting more- challenging, longer-term goals that could result in transformative solutions.

There are limited signs of disruptive innovation, and more of a focus on incrementalism.

The industry is fearful of committing its weight to influencing national and international climate change and sustainability policy; rather, it is standing on the sidelines as a cheerleader.

© 2010 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner's research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

The industry no longer predominantly sees climate change and sustainability as a risk, but sees it as an emerging opportunity.

Service and software providers have improved their positions from 2008, but remain relatively immature in terms of their internal programs and their market offerings. SAP would stand out as a relatively strong performer with big improvements in its internal programs, transparency, product development and road map.

Management of the environmental performance of the supply chain remains an area of significant differentiation, demanding much higher standards from everyone if the ICT industry is to credibly defend its position as a climate leader.

ICT providers in Asia (not Japan) are still lagging overall, but we have seen some dramatic improvements, and we would anticipate that continuing.

IT organizations still need to pay close attention to the balanced nature of the programs from IT providers, covering all areas of influence from direct, indirect and policy issues. We still see plenty of examples of providers with significant gaps in their programs.

Interindustry partnerships are starting to emerge, particularly from the leaders. For example, IBM and Johnson Controls developing intelligent building solutions. These partnerships are a very significant and important step in the ability of ICTs to develop commercially viable solutions for a low-carbon economy.

While the recent Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report outlining a high-level methodology for measuring the enabling effects of ICT related to the climate is a good step forward, the industry has so far only made a limited attempt at measuring the environmental benefits of its solutions, and has made no attempt at all to understand their systemic and rebound impacts. (That is, the indirect and frequently unforeseen change in behaviors, consumption patterns and so on, resulting from the introduction of new technologies, policy measures, etc.)

The industry continues to bask in the afterglow of the Smart 2020 report (, when it should really be moving that thinking forward at a much faster pace.

Link to report

From Workplace to Anyplace: Assessing the Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions With Virtual Meetings and Telecommuting (Report)

Role: Co-author with Marco Muttazzoni, Andrea Rossi and Suzanne Pahlman

This report focuses on the opportunities to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in work-related contexts, thanks to the deployment of IT solutions that enable one or more individuals to work or collaborate remotely. In particular the report analyzes the potential associated with teleworking and virtual meetings to reduce carbon emissions from daily commuting by car and business air travel, and the conditions under which such potential could be realized. The goal of the report is to gain an understanding of the scale of the opportunities available while identifying the key drivers that may enable or hinder the full achievement of such opportunities. By analyzing different trajectories of possible future developments, this report provides insight into a future in which maximum GHG emission reductions could be achieved.

The premise for the analysis is that IT is best seen as a catalyst that can either be used in ways that reduce our environmental footprint or can be deployed within systems that ultimately result in an increased environmental footprint. Because the policy and economic environment in which IT technology is deployed largely determines its net impact on GHG emissions, this report outlines four scenarios for possible future developments, characterized by different roles and attitudes in policy makers and IT industry

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The Day Technology Saved the Planet Transformative Solutions in a Time of Crisis (article) in Technology in a Cold Climate

Role: Author 

The Project
Technology in a Cold Climate aims to engender a greater understanding among the technology sector and policy makers about the role that technologies could play in meeting the UK’s ambitions and challenges.

A revolutionary transformation of society based on new technology would allow the UK to take the lead towards a sustainable economy. This transformation would fundamentally change how the economy works and how many resources are used and in what ways, while most of the physical infrastructure would look almost identical to what is around us today.

Such a revolution is required by the “perfect storm” that increased pressure on the planetʼs resources will create, and enabled by accelerated technological developments. Approached in a strategic way, these converging trends can be directed to spur innovation and creativity on
a level that humanity has never seen before.

Instead of trying to identify specific solutions that could provide sustainable solutions, we should look to support clusters that are likely to trigger a multitude of changes. For a sustainable future three ICT clusters are particularly important:

1. Connectivity: ensuring a 21st century communication infrastructure
2. Miniaturisation: enabling ubiquitous computing (ubicomp)
3. Integration: facilitating the emergence of augmented reality (AR)

Link to full article

Link to Technology in a Cold Climate

Assessment of Global Low-Carbon and Environmental Leadership in the ICT Sector (Report)

Role: author with Simon Mingay

With increased pressure to reduce carbon emissions, enterprises are approaching this new situation in very different ways. Some are still struggling to assess their own business environmental and climate impact. Other enterprises approach the need to reduce carbon emissions among customers as an opportunity to move beyond their relatively smaller direct impact and also focus on the opportunity that low-carbon ICT services can provide. The difference in how companies approach the need for a low- carbon economy is creating a new corporate landscape where new winners and losers will emerge and where ICT customers must learn to navigate. This is an assessment of 24 of the industry's world-leading providers and an analysis of where the ICT industry is today in relation to its maturity in mitigating environmental risks and exploiting the opportunities that the need for reduced carbon emissions will create.

Key Findings

  • 2008 has seen the emergence of some low-carbon "leaders" in the ICT industry. They are just starting to wake up to the risks and opportunities of climate change, and move beyond pushing a more energy-efficient device. However, on the whole, the industry has been sleepwalking toward a low-carbon economy. 2009 will see rapid progress.

  • There is frequently more talking than there is action on behalf of the ICT providers. The results show those who need to make significant steps forward if their actions are to match their marketing.

  • Some of the "self-professed" leaders in environmental performance have some significant weaknesses in their programs.

  • Most providers still view "the environment" and "climate change" as a risk rather than as an opportunity.

  • Most ICT technology providers have outsourced most, if not all, manufacturing. So looking at the vendors' performance is looking at the tip of the iceberg — which is further compounded by most of those vendors only looking at the environmental performance of their Tier 1 suppliers.

  • Service organizations are quite immature in their environmental programs and their innovation for a low-carbon economy.

  • There is a lack of interindustry partnerships to create innovative solutions to tackle high- carbon areas of the economy.

    © 2008 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner's research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

  • The vendors from Asia (not Japan) are still lagging behind but some have begun to put comprehensive programs in place, and it is likely that they will move rapidly to the front in this area, driven by the urgent needs for low-carbon solutions in their domestic markets.

  • Fifteen of the 24 providers invited to participate did so, which is a good level of commitment from the industry. However, nine providers chose not to participate. With one exception, we believe that reflects their immaturity in environmental and low-carbon leadership.

  • This is a rapidly changing area.

Link to report

Creating the First Sustainable Innovation Zone: SIZ (Leaflet)

Role: Project supervisor

The Sustainable Innovation Zone, SIZ, is an internal HP web portal engaging employees to share ideas on ICT applications that can help reduce CO2 emissions. Rather than focusing on how HP can reduce its own environmen- tal impact, the SIZ focuses on how HP can help custo- mers reduce their carbon footprint by using HP solutions.

The SIZ promotes ICT applications that signi cantly reduce CO2 emissions, the use of resources and improve service quality.

Download the leaflet

IT and sustainable development: Swedish Government established a Forum for IT and environmental issues (Report)

Role: co-author with Ewa Thorslund

In 2001, the Swedish Government established a Forum for IT and environmental issues with a mandate lasting until December 2003. The Forum’s purpose was to provide a natural platform for information and communication technology (ICT) and ecologically sustainable development. The Forum is run by a work group comprising representatives of the industrial and research sectors, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket), ministries and environmental organisations.

The Swedish Environment Minister, Lena Sommestad, was appointed Chairperson of the Forum. The Forum’s aim was to analyse how increased use can be made of IT applications to promote sustainable development, and how various actors can be encouraged to contribute to this goal. The group’s mandate included studying ways in which IT use can contribute to the development of new infrastructures and products and services with lower resource consumption and environmental impact. The Environmental Protection Agency was responsible for the Forum’s secretariat. The present document was written by Dennis Pamlin and Ewa Thorslund within the framework of the Forum.

Link to report

IT och en hållbar utveckling: Svenska regeringens forum för IT och miljö (Report)


Role: co-author with Ewa Thorslund

Jag tror detta var första gången som svenska regeringen tillsatte en grupp för att studera förhållandet mellan hållbarhet och ICT (men inte den sista). Jag var i slutet av skrivandet av "Sustainability at the speed of light" då processen påbörjades så jag tyckte det passade perfekt. Jag trodde att detta skulle bli ett politiskt genombrott för ICT/hållbarghet, men i princip inget hände. Jag har blivit allt mer försiktig att delta i processer där allt som händer är att människor möts och skriver en rapport som inte resulterar i något. Med tiden har jag förstått att det är en hel industri med grupper som försörjer sig på att stödja processer som inte är tänkta att resultera i något mer än att bekräfta dagens situation. 

Regeringen tillsatte under 2001 ett forum för IT och miljö med mandat till december 2003. Syftet med forumet var att skapa en naturlig plattform för informations- och kommunikationsteknik (ICT) och ekologiskt hållbar utveckling. Arbetet bedrivs genom en arbetsgrupp med företrädare för både industri, forskning, Naturvårdsverket, departement samt representanter från miljöorganisationer.

Miljöminister Lena Sommestad utsågs till ordförande i forumet. Målet för forumets arbete är att kartlägga hur IT-tillämpningar i högre grad kan utnyttjas för att minska miljöpåverkan och främja en hållbar utveckling, och hur man kan stimulera olika aktörer för att nå detta mål. I gruppens mandat ingick att särskilt studera de möjligheter som IT-användningen ger åt framväxten av ny infrastruktur samt produkter och tjänster som tär mindre på resurser och miljö. Naturvårdsverket ansvarade för forumets sekretariat. Följande dokument har utformats av Dennis Pamlin och Ewa Thorslund inom ramen för ovanstående forum.

Länk till rapport

GRI Telecommunications Sector Supplement (Paper)


Role: co-author with Sean Gilbert, Michael Kuhndt, Edoardo Gai, Dunstan Hope, Danilo Riva, Chris Tuppen,

This was the first time "net-positive"/ "climate positive" effects of ICT was included in an international framework I think. Even 15 years later it is ahead of the GHG-protocol, CDP and others that dominate how companies should report (as they stick to only the "reduction" perspective). This is about to change, but as of 2017 the focus is still 99% on the reductions and not how companies can deliver what is needed. 

GRI is pleased to release the pilot version of the Telecommunications Sector Supplement for use in conjunction with the GRI 2002 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (‘the Guidelines).

In 2001,GRI launched its supplement programme in response to consistent feedback on the importance of sector-specific guidelines built on the foundation of the Guidelines. GRI supplements capture issues essential to sustainability reporting in a specific sector, but which may not appear in the Guidelines since they are relevant primarily for a specific range of reporting organisations or sectors. By developing both the Guidelines and sectoral supplements, the GRI framework supports the comparison of reporting organisations both across within and across sectors.

Link to paper

WSIS PREP-COM-2 Contribution (Paper)


Role: co-author with Chris Tuppen,

This was the first attempt at trying to change an international framework and I was surprised to learn how willing policy makers were to acknowledge the potential for ICT to deliver significant contributions (and this was many years before we saw the kind of major impacts that we are used to now). I also explored the gaps between internatinal commettments and national implementation.  

This contribution puts forward a series of issues that should be reflected in the WSIS summit Declaration and Plan of Action.

Increasing population, economic activity and consumptive lifestyles are placing unsustainable burdens on the earth's natural systems and finite resources. Creating prosperity through much less wasteful and harmful use of resources has been identified as the over-arching sustainable development challenge.

Enhanced connectivity enables people to transact businesses from home, saving commuting time, energy and pollution from transportation. Trends in ICT towards miniaturization of components, and its capacity to monitor resource and energy use through production processes, can greatly reduce environmental and economic costs. Mobile networks are allowing whole phases of 'hard-wired' infrastructure development to be 'leapfrogged' in many parts of the world."1

We suggest that it is essential for the WSIS to consider the Sustainability Implications of the Knowledge Society. In particular we suggest that the environmental dimension has not yet been given sufficient weight alongside the social and economic dimensions.

This proposal is therefore for sustainable development to be explicitly included in the Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action to be adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society

The key elements of this contribution to WSIS address the following themes:

  •  Sustainability Implications of the Knowledge Society (new theme)

  • International Cooperation

  • Opening the Gates and Overcoming the Digital Divide

  • Services and Applications

Link to contribution

Sustainability at the Speed of Light (Book)


Role: author/editor

After the climate meeting in Kyoto and assessing other sustainability trends it became clear that more than incremental improvements are needed.  The technology and sector that I thought was best positioned to deliver this sustainable disruption was the ICT sector.

After a few years of trying to get governments, companies (outside the ICT sector) and NGOs to understand the potential of digitalisation without much success I decided to put the ideas together in a book to make a very complicated issue easier to access. It was interesting as most people agreed that it was important, but very few felt they could do anything. So the five years after the book I focused on integrating an ICT aspect in all strategies and processes that I thought were important. There are many interesting stories around the process, and I learned a lot about how different people approach change and new ideas.  

First two sentences
For the past few years, information technology and the so-called new economy have been intensely discussed. Many different views exist, but there is no doubt that over the next couple of years information and communication technologies (ICT) will come to affect and reshape most parts of our society. Whether we like it or not, ICT will radically influence transport patterns, energy consumption, overall resource usage and, to an unknown degree, our culture and even the way we perceive the world, our relationship to it, and our actions as dictated by these new mores.

Although ICT will have an enormous effect on tomorrow’s society, surprisingly little research has been conducted regarding its future environmental consequences. Most of the work that has been done has reached one of two conclusions: either ICT will bring only good things, from solutions to world hunger and the elimination of all transportation problems to a revitalised democracy; or ICT will bring nothing but problems, accelerating resource consumption, introducing new toxic materials and resulting in greater inequity by introducing a digital divide that will worsen the already unequal distribution of wealth and influence.

The first challenge, if we want to tackle the challenges surrounding ICT for the future, is to go beyond this polarised perspective.

Link to the book in PDF