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How can the Information and Communications Technology sector get to Net Zero?

Business in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector have a significant part to play in the energy transition, decarbonisation, and the achievement of Net Zero.

Science Based Targets

The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), in collaboration with other agencies and associations including United Nations agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), recently published guidance[1] for ICT companies setting Science Based Targets for greenhouse gases (GHGs) according to a set of new decarbonisation pathways. Whilst aimed exclusively at Mobile Network Operators, Fixed Network Operators and Data Centre Operators, the guidance can be applied by companies right across the ICT sector; however other parts of the ICT sector will get their own guidance in future releases. The SBTi has published or is developing guidance for other sectors including aviation, chemicals, cement, financial institutions, power, steel, and transport.

The ICT guidance covers achieving sector trajectories (1.5°C) and emissions scope targets for individual companies. To recap, GHG emissions associated with business operations are categorised by the GHG Protocol standards[2] as:

  • Scope 1: direct emissions
  • Scope 2: energy related emissions
  • Scope 3: value chain emissions (where significant)

Where an ICT company operates across sub-sectors (e.g. where a MNO also runs fixed networks), emissions targets can be split across sub-sectors to provide an overall, company-wide target.

Scope 3 Emissions

Many operators in the ICT sector will have significant Scope 3 emissions and general guidance is provided to help ICT companies establish their Scope 3 targets. The most significant Scope 3 categories for an ICT company are likely to be:

  • Category I – Purchased Goods and Services; and
  • Category II – Use of Sold Products.

Mapping and then eliminating emissions across the value chain is likely to be a far bigger challenge to many companies than its own operational emissions (Scopes 1 & 2). ICT companies have much less control over Scope 3 and won’t easily know their extent and make-up. Tackling this problem will require extensive collaboration across the supply chain to align around business purpose targets. As well as extensive data gathering and analysis, and a string business case, it will require good communications and engagement strategies, and careful planning and execution.

Tacking the climate emergency with contract clauses!

And just as green leases are starting to make an impact in the real estate sector, introducing appropriate and detailed contractual clauses[3] into supply chain contracts and other agreements will reinforce decarbonisation targets and behaviours.

[1] Information and Communication Technology (ICT) - Science Based Targets

[2] Standards | Greenhouse Gas Protocol (

[3] For example, the Chancery Lane Project, whose mission is to enable organisations to “use new contractual clauses that help fight climate change” has a suite developed a suite of model ESG definitions and clauses (About The Chancery Lane Project | The Chancery Lane Project)

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