Information and communication technology (ICT) carbon footprint is the entire quantity of greenhouse gas emissions brought on by the manufacturing, usage, and disposal of ICT products and services. ICT consists of software, data centers, networks, and cloud computing in addition to hardware like computers, smartphones, servers, and routers. ICT also offers a variety of applications and solutions that may have an impact on the environment, such as blockchain, smart grids, teleworking, and e-commerce.

The ICT industry, which is comparable to the aviation sector in size, is estimated to be responsible for 1.8%–2.8% of the world's carbon footprint, as per recent research studies. However, the result could change based on the calculation's parameters and technique. The energy consumption of devices and data centers, the emissions from the production and transportation of ICT equipment, and the disposal and handling of electronic waste are some aspects that affect the ICT carbon footprint.

By adopting more energy-efficient technology, utilizing renewable energy sources, extending the lifespan of devices, encouraging circular economy principles, and enabling digital solutions that can lower emissions in other sectors, the ICT sector also has the potential to minimize its carbon footprint.


The information and communication technology (ICT) industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world, with an estimated annual revenue of over $5 trillion. ICT encompasses many products and services, such as computers, smartphones, internet, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and more. ICT has enabled many benefits for society, such as improved communication, education, health, entertainment, and productivity. However, ICT also has a significant environmental impact, especially in terms of its carbon footprint.

In the past few decades, information and communication technology (ICT) gadgets and services have assumed a significant role in our lives and drastically changed how we work, communicate, travel, and play. While the world's population has only quadrupled over the past 50 years, the use of electronic devices has increased six-fold. By 2020, 6.1 billion cell phones will be smartphones, predicts phone manufacturer Ericsson.

The ICT sector has a favorable reputation in the sustainability community today since it has fundamentally changed how we communicate and conduct business, revealing chances to lessen our environmental impact. For instance, teleworking, video conferencing, and e-commerce have decreased the time people and commodities spend travelling around the world, negatively impacting the amount of petroleum used and the greenhouse gases released. Furthermore, the notion of "smart grids," "smart homes," and "smart buildings" has been developed in order to better optimize energy management in those locations through monitoring variables such as temperature, humidity, and sunlight thanks to wireless sensors and monitoring technology. However, this is merely the more positive side of how ICT technology has impacted our lives.

The smart grid market has witnessed a substantial growth in recent years owing to increasing demand for reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency. Adding to this, governments all around the world have enacted a slew of supportive laws and mandates aimed at building smart grids and raising energy saving awareness will further accelerate the growth of the market. According to the Data Bridge Market Research analysis, the smart grid market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.06% from 2022 to 2029.

To learn more about the study, visit: https://www.databridgemarketresearch.com/reports/global-smart-grid-market

The exponentially rising energy consumption of the ICT sector is its most serious and alarming aspect. Our requirement for energy to make and electricity to run these devices is increasing quickly, along with our reliance on ICT products and services. Carbon dioxide, the main Green House Gas (GHG), and other global warming pollutants are produced due to the production of this vital energy required to create and run all of the ICT gadgets currently available on the market.

In recent years, more people are becoming aware of climate change and its possibly disastrous implications. There are more climate change efforts than ever, with detailed action plans and tactics meant to lessen the adverse consequences of global warming on our environment. The Paris Agreement, approved by 196 countries in December 2015 and a leading example of a recent global endeavor, is a historic worldwide plan to slow down climate change in the coming years. The pact established obligations to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

According to data on global greenhouse gas emissions, the production of electricity (29%), transportation (27%), and industry (21%), followed by commercial and residential (12%) and agriculture (9%) in 2015, were the economic sectors that contributed the most to emissions globally. One might conclude from these figures that the ICT sector does not contribute to the world's greenhouse gas emissions. A close examination finds that the energy consumption of computers, data centers, networking hardware, and other ICT devices (excluding smartphones) reached up to 8% of total global consumption and is predicted to reach 14% by 2020.

The environmental impact of ICT equipment is increasing along with its overall volume. However, the worldwide ICT carbon footprint has a patchy record in the literature since it has various sources and takes many distinct forms. The energy consumed in both making and using ICT gadgets is what causes the emissions from those devices and, as a result, their environmental impact. The entire CO2 footprint of the ICT industry is also impacted by waste disposal and mining for earth metals required to manufacture ICT gadgets. As a result, depending on the factors that are considered, various approaches can be employed to compute the CO2 footprint.

The ICT industry is primarily made up of two types of electronic equipment: (i) electronic devices such as PCs, including desktop and laptop computers, along with associated CRT and LCD displays, and handheld devices such as tablets and smart phones, and (ii) infrastructural facilities such as data centers, which include servers, networking gear, power and cooling equipment, and communication networks, which include customer premises access equipment (CPAE).

Figure 1: Information and Communication Technology Equipment

Future of Carbon Footprint on Information and Communication (ICT) Sector

Source: UNEP-CCC

Computing devices, data center infrastructures, communication networks and other operational activities shown in above figure are responsible for the carbon emission in ICT sector.

Apart from hardware equipment, software development also plays a role in greenhouse gas emissions of ICT industry. Virtually all intelligent solutions created to support the environment are built on software. For instance, it's crucial in campaigns to stop deforestation and cut emissions. However, software frequently contributes to a rapidly expanding carbon footprint. In actuality, the recent and widespread use of digital technology has started to worsen many environmental issues they are meant to address. However, businesses may make software a key component of their sustainability initiatives by considering its carbon footprint throughout its design, development, and deployment as well as by reevaluating some aspects of the operations of the data centers that offer cloud-based services.

Software doesn't use energy or release any negative emissions. The way software is created for usage and then utilized is where the problem lies. Hardware and software are interdependent, and as the latter develops, so does our reliance on the devices that enable it. Blockchain, for instance, powers some of the most cutting-edge green technologies on the market, such as micro-grids that let locals trade green energy. Additionally, the invention of Bitcoin is a result of this software breakthrough. The energy required to maintain the Bitcoin network was predicted to be greater than that needed to power the entire country of Switzerland in 2019 by University of Cambridge researchers.

Facts and Figures:

The primary sources of carbon emissions from ICT are:

Multiple research studies have been conducted to analyze the amount of information and communication ' 'technology's carbon footprint and its effect on environment. Every research study has different prospective, scope and outcomes. Some of the results related to carbon footprint of ICT sector are shown below:

Figure 2: Global GHG Emissions in the ICT Sector

Future of Carbon Footprint on Information and Communication (ICT) Sector

Source: UNEP-CCC

Distribution of ICT's carbon footprint & electricity consumption

Figure 3: Distribution of 'ICT's Carbon Footprint

Future of Carbon Footprint on Information and Communication (ICT) Sector

Source: Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson

User devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and modems, as well as data centers, enterprise networks, and operator operations are the sources of the ICT sector's carbon emissions. ICT networks for fixed and mobile access come in second. The portion of the footprint that is linked to networks has somewhat increased over 2010 while the portion related to consumer devices has slightly reduced.

User devices account for the majority of the total carbon footprint of ICT in 2015. About half of the emissions from user devices are related to usage, and the other half are related to the rest of their life cycles. The impact of desktop PC use and smartphone production is greatest, followed by customer premises equipment (CPE), laptops, and displays.

The highest impact on greenhouse gas emissions is caused by networks and data centers, underlining the importance of continuing to focus on energy efficiency for these goods to further minimize the carbon footprint.

 Figure 4: Distribution of ICT's Electricity Consumption

Future of Carbon Footprint on Information and Communication (ICT) Sector

Source: Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson

The above graph depicts that user devices account for the highest electricity consumption among other categories, such as networks and data centers in ICT sector. However, it has been observed that the electricity consumption of user devices is dropped by some amount in 2018 compared to 2015. In contrast, the electricity consumption of networks and data centers increased in 2018 when compared with 2015 values.

As per electricity consumption values in 2018, user devices accounted for approximately 320-330 TWh, followed by networks with 230-240 TWh and data centers with 210-220 TWh.

According to the research conducted by Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, ICT subscriptions had an average carbon footprint of 81 kg CO2-eq in 2015. This should be contrasted with the 7000 kg CO2-equivalent global average for each person's overall carbon footprint. The footprint per ICT customer has shrunk by more than 20% since 2010.

ICT Trends: Opportunities and Threats

The following three areas of technical innovation could have significant effects on the carbon footprint of the ICT sector in the future (posing both opportunities and threats):

Big Data, Data Science and AI

One of the most significant technological trends today is big data, made possible by cloud computing's data storage (and computational) capabilities. There has been a lot of interest in using data science and AI to make sense of these massive and complicated data sets.

The big data and data engineering services market has witnessed a substantial growth in recent years owing to surge in data consumptions among organizations across the globe. Adding to this, the increase in the volume of unstructured data, due to the phenomenal growth of interconnected devices and social media, and deployment of the process among companies to improve productivity and efficiency will further accelerate the growth of the market. According to the Data Bridge Market Research analysis, the big data and data engineering services market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.13% from 2022 to 2029.

To learn more about the study, visit: https://www.databridgemarketresearch.com/reports/global-big-data-and-data-engineering-services-market


Big data, data science, and AI may help create a "smart" future with decreased carbon emissions

Utilizing big data, data science, and AI alongside IoT presents tremendous prospects for the so-called "smart future," which includes smart grids, cities, logistics, agriculture, housing, and more. Big data, data science, and AI could help create a future with lower carbon emissions, for instance, by figuring out the best routes through cities and easing traffic or by maximizing energy use for heating and lighting in buildings.

Industry and academics are both eager to use these technologies for societal advancement

The use of data science and/or AI for social good, including applications in the fields of health and the environment, is significantly increasing, even though this research is still in its early stages and hasn't generally permeated into everyday life. Big data's role in supporting green applications, particularly in the areas of energy efficiency, sustainability, and the environment, has been discussed. Additionally, computational sustainability is growing, using technologies like AI to support the United Nations' (UN) sustainable development goals. Additionally, a growing body of study examines how these technologies might help environmental scientists in their quest for a deeper comprehension of our changing natural world.


The amount of data in the world doubles every two years

Data has been referred to as "the new oil" because of its commercial significance, but as data storage and data centers expand to fulfill the demand for big data, this description may have a double meaning due to the environmental impact of data. Complex global problems can be solved with the storage and analysis of data, but there are worries about the resources needed to support data science and AI technologies, particularly the carbon footprint of the underlying data centers. The total amount of digital data is predicted to reach 44 trillion gigabytes by 2020.

The processing of this data results in an increasing amount of emissions as computational complexity rises

Data science and AI present further dangers beyond the projected expansion of data center emissions. The most advanced of the two, especially when using machine learning and deep learning to operate on huge data, is artificial intelligence (AI). One machine learning method for natural language processing is thought to produce 284,019 kg of CO2e emissions during training, which is five times as much as a car would release over its lifespan. The carbon footprint of model training is nevertheless acknowledged as a potential issue in the future given the trends in compute growth for AI, even though this statistic has been criticized as being an exaggerated illustration of the footprint of model training: In reality, between 2012 and 2018, AI training computations rose by 300,000x (an exponential rise doubling every 3.4 months).

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of ordinary items that are connected to the internet, including wearable technology, appliances, cars, and other transportation vehicles. As a result, the internet has grown significantly and is still growing.


IoT technology can boost productivity both inside and outside the ICT industry

IoT applications are frequently considered "smart technology," especially when used with data science and AI to reduce energy consumption. Location-based services from smart cities are one example of how smart cities strive to provide better public services and resource use at a lower environmental cost. Through more environmentally friendly driving practices, IoT sensors and data analysis help lower transportation pollution. A combination of IoT and grid technology has the potential to support the management of the resulting Smart Grid, for example, by addressing the intermittent nature of renewable supply, and ICT can decarbonize the energy supply. IoT deployments have been tested in schools to promote sustainable behaviors based on IoT sensing data and raise awareness of energy consumption. The IoT has also been harnessed to enable energy efficiencies within ICT, for instance by using IoT sensing data to lower the amount of air conditioning that is needed in data centers. These few instances show the variety of IoT prospects for reducing GHG emissions, provided that the IoT applications replace more conventional carbon-intensive activities rather than go hand in hand with them.


IoT enablement comes at a price in the form of a sharp increase in the number of devices, device traffic, and associated emissions

Despite these potential, the sheer volume of IoT devices and the corresponding data traffic is increasing substantially. A fivefold growth from 15.41 billion internet-connected devices in 2015 to 75.44 billion in 2025 is predicted as a result of IoT innovation. According to Cisco, the number of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) connections will increase from 6.1 billion in 2018 to 14.7 billion by 2023 (a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 19%), or 1.8 M2M connections per person on Earth. The majority of these connections are anticipated to be created by IoT in the home for automation, security, and surveillance (48% of connections by 2023), although linked autos (30% CAGR between 2018 and 2023) and cities (26% CAGR) are the fastest-growing IoT application areas.

IoT's carbon footprint is not well understood, but it will have a big impact on embodied emissions

The energy footprint of IoT semiconductor production alone has been estimated to reach 556 TWh in 2016 and expand to 722 TWh in 2025, despite the fact that the footprint of IoT is unknown and frequently ignored in studies of ICT carbon emissions. The production and consumption of semiconductors would result in emissions totaling 424 MtCO2e in 2016 and 6,125 MtCO2e in 2025, assuming a global electricity mix of 0.63 MtCO2e/TWh; this does not include emissions from the entire IoT device, associated sensors, and emissions in data centers and networks that IoT communicate with. It is also to remember that as society transitions to an IoT-focused lifestyle, the introduction of IoT may cause an initial surge in obsolescence for other non-ICT products (for example, replacing a functional kettle with an internet-connected kettle).

Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies

Blockchain is an illustration of a decentralized algorithm meant to prevent centralized control or a single point of failure. Blockchain opens the door to potentially significant new applications, such as decentralized banking systems. Blockchain is most commonly used for cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin currently being the largest one in use.

The blockchain market has witnessed a substantial growth in recent years owing to growing adoption of blockchain technologies in the IoT, banking, and cybersecurity sectors. Increased venture capital funding, investments, and the adoption of blockchain technology in supply chain management and retail are all predicted to contribute to market growth. According to the Data Bridge Market Research analysis, the blockchain market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 71.96% from 2023 to 2030.

To learn more about the study, visit: https://www.databridgemarketresearch.com/reports/global-blockchain-market


Although there aren't any applications for these technologies currently, blockchain may present some prospects for lowering carbon emissions

Although there aren't any concrete examples of measurable emissions reductions yet, a decentralized electronic currency could offer a significant disruption in how market transactions are managed and the potential for managing decentralized energy exchanges. Kouhizadeh and Sarkis [2018] discuss the potential of blockchain technologies to improve supply chain sustainability, for instance by promoting transparency in the early stages of supply chain management (such as vendor selection and evaluation); this work, however, is speculative at this stage, prompting researchers to offer directions to further explore adoption of blockchain in this domain.


One bitcoin uses the same amount of energy as several entire countries

Blockchain is powered by energy because it generates a lot of replication and redundant processing if the "Proof of Work" algorithm is used. As risk sharing for Proof of Work Blockchains improves, energy consumption may also rise due to an intensifying "mining arms race." Concentrating on cryptocurrencies particularly, one analysis claims that Bitcoin's 68.7 TWh in yearly electricity needs in 2020 are equivalent to powering 7 million US households, with a footprint of 44 MtCO2. Due to transaction inefficiencies, a single transaction could take up to 750 kWh, or 473 kgCO2e, which is enough energy to power 23 families for a day.19 In terms of market share, Bitcoin now controls 64% of all cryptocurrencies. Assuming other cryptocurrencies have the same carbon intensity as Bitcoin, the carbon footprint of all cryptocurrencies would be 69 MtCO2e, or 0.1% of global emissions. Another study found that the Bitcoin network used 2.55 gigawatts (GW) of electricity in 2018, which is almost as much as Ireland's 3.1 GW usage, but predicted that this may increase to 7.67 GW in the future (equivalent to Austria's 8.2 GW use). Other researchers claim that Bitcoin will use 48.2 TWh of electricity each year and emit between 23.6-28.8 MtCO2 of carbon dioxide in 2018. Other cryptocurrencies were predicted by Stoll et al. to contribute an additional 70 TWh in 2018, increasing the overall carbon footprint to around 73 MtCO2e in 2018.

Steps Towards Sustainable Future

The future of the carbon footprint on the ICT industry depends on several factors, such as:

Multiple government institutes, regulatory bodies, organizations, ICT product manufacturers, and service providers are taking initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint in the near future.

ITU Standard

According to a new International Telecommunication Union (ITU) guideline, the information and communication technology (ICT) sector must cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45% between 2020 and 2030 to comply with the Paris Agreement. The standard will assist ICT companies in decreasing GHG emissions at the rate required to achieve the Paris Agreement's target of keeping global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) has officially adopted the first emission-reduction targets that are unique to the ICT sector. ITU L.1470 outlines emission-reduction paths for mobile network operators, stationary network operators, and operators of data centers. The standard and related advice will assist operators in establishing "science-based targets," as defined by SBTi, that are in line with the most recent findings in the field of climate research.

The new ITU standard offers authoritative guidance on the ICT industry's pathway towards net zero emissions. The standard serves as an illustration of what is possible when important parties work well together. It makes a substantial contribution to the global effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

According to the GSMA, 29 operator groups comprising 30% of mobile connections worldwide have already committed to science-based goals.

Green IT: Green and Sustainable Computing

In order to address the ecological and social impacts of digital technology, the concept of Green IT or Eco ICT (meaning Information and Communication Technologies) has been established.

All IT practices that help businesses lower their carbon footprint, greenhouse gas emissions, energy usage, and other environmental impact factors are referred to as "green IT." This includes any technological advancements that lessen the environmental impact of information technology. Furthermore, Green IT addresses the socio-economic tenets taken at the corporate and societal levels to start the ecological transformation.

Company Initiatives

After switching to renewable energy, Google is now analyzing its supply chain to be carbon-free by 2030. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Google's collaboration has facilitated the adoption of more circular economy practices. They have already noticed a significant difference since adopting a new mentality that encourages refurbishing, repairing, reusing, and recycling parts in their datacentres.

These sustainability initiatives appeal to various stakeholders and show a compelling business case for being green by improving Google's bottom line. Six data centers attained a startling 100% diversion rate, bringing Google's overall diversion percentage from landfills to 86%.

Hewlett-Packard, a leading manufacturer of computers, was one of the first significant businesses to be open about its energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. In order to lessen their impact on the environment, they put into place several sustainability efforts, such as ambitious recycling programs to reduce waste sent to landfills and the amount of chemicals required to make their ink cartridges. Additionally, Hewlett-Packard has developed into a fervent advocate for business sustainability, confident in the fact that they have worked hard to support their advocacy.

Companies are employing various strategies to either lessen or compensate for their environmental effect after determining their present rate of carbon emissions. Apple is one of the many groups working to help those in the region most negatively impacted by climate change. In order to reduce carbon emissions, support biodiversity, and shield islands from the effects of coastal erosion, they have pledged to plant approximately 27000 trees in crucial mangrove forests.


The future of carbon footprint on the ICT industry is a complex and uncertain issue that requires collective action from all stakeholders: governments, businesses, civil society, academia, and consumers. By working together to develop and implement solutions that can minimize the environmental impact of ICT while maximizing its social and economic benefits, we can ensure that ICT can be a force for good in the world.

DBMR has served more than 40% of Fortune 500 firms internationally and has a network of more than 5000 clients. Our Team would be happy to help you with your queries. Visit, https://www.databridgemarketresearch.com/contact

Contact Us


Additional Insights On Impact and Actions