ICT Sustainability Modeling

But the only possible guarantee of the future is responsible behavior in the present.-Wendell Berry, “Living in the Future,” The Unsettling of America, 1977

What comes to your mind when you hear the term “modeling”? Varies right? You may think of someone “modeling” clothing on the runways of Europe or New York City.  Or it may elicit fond memories of childhood when you created “models” of airplanes, cars or trains.  There are all sorts of “models” that can be developed. At AT&T, we developed carbon emission measurement models, to predict and document the positive outcomes that result from using AT&T solutions for “travel replacement,” including video conferencing and telecommuting.

Although there are several approaches to measuring the benefits of ICT-based (Information Communications Technology)  carbon reduction, many are too complex, costly and time consuming for the vast majority of business customers.  The top priorities driving ICT purchase or use consideration aren’t always based on sustainability,  which is why the models were augmented to include other highly relevant bottom-line business “sustainability” benefits, including travel dollars saved and productivity enhancements achieved.

These models were created to mirror Global e-Sustainability Initiatives ( GeSI),  ICT Enablement Methodology, by a sub-team on AT&T’s Business Sustainability Advisory Council (ABSAC). The sub-team performed this modeling exercise following three primary steps, with particular emphasis on the final step of formulating conclusions:

  • Step One: define the goal and scope of the study – this step involves considering all potential CO2e (Carbon Dioxide emission) effects related to the ICT solution area being modeled.
  • Step Two: Limit the assessment by defining a “business as usual” reference that focuses on the most significant primary effects and life cycle processes based on a rough estimation of the drivers of emissions specific to the area under study.
  • Step Three: Assess and interpret net results through a rigorous assessment of significant life cycle processes based upon assumptions, limitations, uncertainty, data quality and conclusions.

AT&T’s objective in supporting this research is to translate knowledge and insight regarding environmental impacts that can be used by customers to obtain actionable and verifiable data to support smart choices in deploying ICT solutions that provide bottom-line business benefits.

Two comprehensive models for assessing the sustainability impacts of telepresence video conferencing and telecommuting (Remote Access Services), demonstrate how to capture and verify net results for emissions reduction, cost savings and productivity enhancements.

The models and their component calculations required accessing data from various sources within AT&T, equipment manufacturers, travel providers and government.  It included two years of AT&T baseline data and user surveys which supported “evidence-based” assessment decisions regarding inclusion and exclusion of primary and secondary effects.   These assessments could not have been achieved with the same degree of confidence in the absence of such extensive knowledge.

Armed with this understanding of what constitutes “business as usual” lifecycle processes, the ABSAC team eliminated the time that would otherwise have been required to conduct more extensive baseline research.

Given the complexity and resources required to complete this modeling exercise,  many business customers may not be able to consider following a similar approach.  That  is why we at AT&T utilized these models to develop the AT&T Carbon Calculator Tool from these models.

What have you seen that helps businesses blend sustainability into their ICT purchases? We’d love to hear your comments (below).
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