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Digital Environmental Footprint

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Digital Environmental Footprint

Pioneering a Life Cycle Assessment approach: creating end-to-end transparency across the entire value chain for digital products & services.

With its work on the Digital Environmental Footprint (DEF), the SDIA is developing a new approach to measuring & reporting the total environmental impact of the digital economy. Based on the existing academic work and methodologies, the DEF provides the frameworks, tools and strategies to implement end-to-end measurement across the supply chain of digital products &Β  services.

How we think about digital products and measuring their environmental impact

In our taxonomy we have defined a simplified model for looking at Digital Products as well as the supply chain that powers them. To assess the environmental footprint, we have chosen the LCA methodology. To validate that an LCA can be made of a digital product, we are applying it with the goal to have a standardized approach that can be used across the entire landscape of Digital Products.

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Our approach to validation
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Why Life Cycle Assessment?

Who is responsible for the environmental footprint of the digital product or service?

Knowing
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Responsibilities across value chain

Outcome

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Long-Term: An applied LCA methodology for digital products & services that is reproducible & documented.

Short-Term: An applied LCA methodology, with a narrow scope: Applying the LCA-methodology for a web page.

Goal

Published a research paper documenting the application of the LCA methodology to a web page by 31st of October 2022

Steps to take

  1. Literature review (beginning of June)
  2. Scope & boundaries (half June)
  3. Several iterations of flow models (end of June)
  4. Collecting data (end of September)
    1. Data request for each component (Inky)
    2. Build our own measuring lab (Max)
    3. Host a data collection hackathon (Max)
    4. Request data from third parties (data request)
  5. Organising the data (September)
  6. Using LCA tool (end of July)
  7. Interpreting results/discussion (October)
  8. Conclusion (October)
  9. Publishing the research paper in the journal of Life Cycle Assessments (The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment) (end of October)
  10. Trigger an academic partner who will reproduce our methodology

Principles

  • Principle: We now a lot of data will not be available - we try to always start with an assumption (Assumption first, data later)
  • Principle: Our own measurement system to generate data (e.g. when the website is being build)
  • Principle: We use data centers and infrastructure where data is available (ScaleUp, EMPA, SurfSARA)

Potential blockers & risks

  • Blocker: Request data from the third party tools that we are using (HubSpot, Prismic, etc.)
    • What data do we need from these 3rd parties?
  • Blocker: Access to the databases for the LCA core data
  • Risk: The ability to generate the inventory data

Ongoing support

  • Advisory Board: LCA Working Group
  • Technical Expertise: A technical advisory board for data gathering is still missing
  • Do we need/want external help on entering the data in an LCA tool?

The Methodology

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Literature review
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Research paper on an applied LCA of a webpage (WIP)
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SDIA’s previous work on the DEF

Solving the attribution problem

Solving the data problem

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Hacking it together