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