Tech Net Zero discovery report – recommendation 4
Recommendation 4 – Measure the carbon footprint of a digital service
What’s the problem?
There is no clear and easy way to evaluate the carbon footprint of a digital service. The need for such a measure came up in our user research and was top of the STAR team’s wish list.
There are other carbon footprint measures within the public sector that could translate to digital.
Being able to measure the footprint of a digital service will help public servants to:
- support decision-making and trade offs
- strengthen the case for investment in digital delivery
- report emissions more accurately
Read more in our research findings about this problem:
Understand the carbon footprint of a digital service
In our conversation with the STAR team, it emerged that measuring the full carbon footprint of a digital service remains something even the best practitioners find difficult. In 2019, the Government Digital Service tried to do so but hit a barrier in finding information.
Since 2019, the large public cloud providers have all announced carbon footprint reporting or released it to their service dashboards, making their services easier to evaluate. Examples include:
Amazon Web Services Customer Carbon Footprint Tool
Google Cloud Platform – Carbon Footprint
Microsoft Emissions Impact Dashboard for Azure and Microsoft 365
However, even these features measure only part of a digital service’s overall footprint, as client devices (for example, a mobile phone or laptop) and internet transit (wireless and cable networks) are not included.
Possible approaches to solving this problem include providing:
- standards for measuring a digital carbon footprint
- examples of measuring the footprint of a service end to end, across channels
- guidance on measuring the climate footprint of legacy IT systems
- guidance on comparing the climate impact of digital and off-line services