Technology Carbon Standard (Proposed)

Introducing a proposed Technology Carbon Standard for analysing an organisation's Technology Carbon Footprint.

This is developed as an approach to classifying an organisation's technology estate to enable consistent analysis and benchmarking of its technology carbon footprint. This standard takes inspiration from the globally recognised GHG Protocol and its emissions classification into Scopes 1, 2, and 3.

Why a New Standard?

The goal of this Technology Carbon Standard is to provide a standardised model of tech emissions that can help organisations when mapping out, measuring or improving the environmental impacts of their technology estate. This fills a gap between high-level consultancy guidance and specific projects tackling individual areas like cloud computing. Consistent standards facilitate productive conversations between sustainability stakeholders, technology leadership and practitioners.

By delineating an organisation's technology estate into categories analogous to GHG Protocol scopes, technology practitioners can more easily identify the most carbon-intensive areas to prioritise for impact reduction. This is not intended to reinvent existing efforts in sustainability measurement and reporting. Where relevant, the methodology references and integrates with established open-source initiatives for calculating technology emissions.

Technology Carbon Standard

Category
Carbon Standard Category
1/2/3
GHG Protocol Scope

Upstream Emissions

Category U
3

Upstream emissions relating to the embodied carbon of hardware and the development of software.

Commercial Software

Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) Software

Hardware Manufacture, Transport and Installation

Employee Hardware (laptops, printers, etc.)
Networking Hardware
Data centre and Server Hardware

Operational emissions are associated to the running of business IT functions and systems. Each operational function may have a hybrid of IT infrastructure across direct and/or indirect emissions.

Direct

Category O
2

Direct running costs that are attributed to the electricity powering servers, networks and devices.

Servers and Storage
Networking Devices
Employee Devices

Category G
1
Generators

Indirect

Category C
3

Indirect running carbon costs that are attributed to external hardware and service solutions.

Cloud Services
SaaS
Managed Services

Downstream Emissions

Category D
3

Carbon associated with the use of products and services produced by the business.

End Use (B2B, B2C)

End-User Devices
Network Data Transfer

Out of Scope

People, Buildings and Travel

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Note that the Tech Carbon Standard does not include other aspects of an organisation's carbon footprint. For example, People, Buildings and Travel (i.e. commuting) are not included in the standard.

This standard provides comprehensive coverage of an organisation's technology carbon footprint while clarifying the different sources of emissions. Improving quantification and transparency aims to spur more targeted, impactful efforts to reduce tech-related emissions.