The Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative calls for action on sustainability at MWC

MWC hears a call for companies in the sector to act with Digital Purpose.

While much of the talk at MWC will be about how mobile network operators can reduce their own emissions and energy efficiency, one speaker at Huawei’s Day0 Conference, held prior to MWC Barcelona 2022, has highlighted the role that communications and IT technologies can play in reducing emissions within other industries.

Luis Neves is CEO of The Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), a membership organisation dedicated to enabling the ICT industry to apply digital solutions to the world’s environmental and social challenges. Its list of members includes telco and IT players including Accenture and Huawei, as well as telecoms operators such as Telstra, Bell and Swisscom.

In an often-passionate speech, Neves said that GeSI intends to kickstart an ambitious programme to expand the use of ICT into a series of sectors. He implored attendees and the sector at large to get serious about adopting a genuine purpose to their businesses – that of enabling sustainability across all the areas where they operate.

Reducing emissions

One major aspect of that purpose is reducing CO2 emissions. “If nothing changes in the way the world’s businesses currently operate, the world will see an 11% increase in CO2 emissions by 2030,” Neves said.

Emissions growth is driven mainly by economic growth, with each 1% increase in GDP historically equating to a 0.5% increase in emissions.

However, Neves said, ICT can play a role in breaking the association between economic growth and a rise in emissions.

He said that ICT can contribute to a 12 Gigaton reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, by impacting on a variety of industries such as mobility, manufacturing, agriculture, the built environment and energy production and distribution.

For example, increased use of online solutions can reduce the need for travel across a variety of sectors, including healthcare. And smart mobility solutions can make the transport we do still use more efficient.

But emissions reduction does not need to be viewed as an anchor on growth; in fact GeSI has modelled that ICT can both enable growth and deliver cost savings, whilst reducing emissions. For example, the agriculture industry could add $1.9 trillion dollars to its topline by 2030 by adopting ICT-based solutions. The electricity industry could save $1.2 trillion.

An impassioned Neves was clear that the time to take action is now. “People are talking about things we were talking about 10 years ago. It’s time to act.” Neves wanted to see urgent activities and emphasised that digital technologies can and need to contribute more.

“Even 5% more digital access can have tangible impacts on SDGs, including CO2 emissions,” he said. “An analysis of 20 targets and their indicators across the UN SDGs shows that the expected deployment of existing digital technologies will, on average, help accelerate progress by 22% and mitigate downward trends by 23%.”

That means that industry leaders need to re-commit to the 2030 agenda and harness the power of digital technologies.

“We come every year to show how wonderful  our technologies are. Everybody understands that. But the problem is we need urgent action on sustainability. We need to walk the talk. So we have started a movement called Digital with Purpose, driven by leaders in ICT.”

Neves said Digital with Purpose is an “ambitious” movement of leaders and CEOs from over 40 companies and organisations joining forces in a race to deliver against the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

To underpin that movement, GeSI has developed a mechanism for scoring companies,  encouraging corporate commitment to the amplification and acceleration of SDG impact through digital technology.

Participants will receive an overall Digital with Purpose performance score, and access to like-minded organisations for opportunities to collaborate to overcome shared barriers and drive collective progress against the SDGs. Companies committing to the programme will be benchmarked against three sets of metrics.

Purpose Metrics will track a company’s commitment to connecting its core business model to a desired impact on the SDGs, working to maximise its positive contribution and minimise its negative externalities.

The Digitally Enabled Solutions Metrics will reflect how a company contributes innovative digital solutions through its products, services, and core business practices.

Finally, the Responsible Business Metrics cover climate change, digital trust and responsibility, the circular economy, digital inclusion and the supply chain.

“We believe in a world where technology, innovation and collaboration can transform the fortunes of our planet,” Neves said.

GeSI will run a Digital Purpose Global Summit in Lisbon in October, and Neves called for the mobile industry and ICT leaders to bring both their technology and a restored sense of purpose.