Impact & Expertise

Press Releases

  • December 03, 2012
  • ICT can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 16.5%, saving up to USD1.9T annually

  • Potential reduction in harmful gases is even larger than thought a few years ago, according to study by BCG and GeSI

Doha, Qatar 3 December 2012- Increased use of information and communication technology (ICT) such as video conferencing and smart building management could cut global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 16.5 percent by 2020, amounting to USD1.9 trillion in gross energy and fuel savings. SMARTer 2020, a new study unveiled today, shows that concerted action by policy makers to encourage the use of ICT can save 9.1 gigatons carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) of harmful greenhouse gases from being emitted—more than the current annual CO2 emissions of the U.S..

The study was conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a leading management consulting firm, on behalf of the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), an ICT industry partnership for sustainability. It concludes that the potential for information technology to reduce global carbon emissions has been under-estimated until now, and that the abatement potential of ICT is seven times the size of the ICT sector’s own carbon footprint. The findings are being released today in a report titled “SMARTer 2020.”

SMARTer 2020 follows up the SMART 2020.1  study, which first evaluated ICT’s potential to enable a low-carbon economy in 2008. The updated in-depth research in SMARTer 2020 now concludes that up to 16.5 percent of global GHG emissions can be slashed by implementing ICT solutions throughout the economy—over 16 percent more savings than was calculated in the earlier study four years ago.

The new research study identifies GHG abatement potential from ICT-enabled solutions ranging across six sectors of the economy: power, transportation, manufacturing, consumer and service, agriculture and land use, and buildings. Emission reductions come from virtualization initiatives such as cloud computing and video conferencing, but also through efficiency gains such as optimization of variable-speed motors in manufacturing and smart livestock management to reduce methane emissions, as well as 32 other ICT-enabled solutions identified in the study. Some ICT-driven solutions, such as smart electricity grids, reap benefits at the national level while others, such as intelligent building management systems, can result in energy and cost savings for individual households and businesses.

Alongside the sectoral analysis, SMARTer 2020 includes detailed national studies of the GHG abatement potential of ICT in seven countries, identifying for each country the best strategies for policy makers to pursue. The countries studied were Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The launch of the study took place during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 18 meeting in Doha. Welcoming the report, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC stated,

“It is critical that the world captures every last bit of energy efficiency, if we are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep below dangerous rises in temperature. I am pleased that this important new study shows how information and communication technology can play an essential role in saving energy. Now we need more and effective government policies that reward such action and penalize delayed responses.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, Luis Neves, GeSI chair, said,

“The ICT revolution is powering even more innovations than we had imagined, leading to greater potential to cut GHG emissions, and a smaller ICT footprint. SMARTer 2020 shows the abatement potential of ICT is seven times the size of the ICT sector’s direct emissions. Information technology can drive the transition to a low carbon economy, with greater efficiency, and the preservation of our environment.”

Philipp Jung, a San Francisco-based partner at BCG, added,

“This study shows that information and communications technology can achieve even greater savings than we previously thought—as much as USD1.9 trillion annually by 2020. The research also shows that country-specific approaches, coordinated within a global framework, are essential to realizing this potential given the diverse country-specific circumstances.”

The study, entitled SMARTer 2020, is available for download at http://gesi.org/SMARTer2020.

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or gregoire.eric@bcg.com or Simon Wilson at +32-2-476-402384 or simon.wilson@edelman.com   

Background note to editors

In 2008, GeSI commissioned and published SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age. The report identified the potential for ICT to deliver 7.8 GtCO2e cuts in greenhouse gases by 2020.

The new study, SMARTer 2020, updates and significantly expands on the SMART 2020 analysis with new analysis and data, and covers the broader use of ICT in other industries. The report includes analysis of the barriers to adoption of ICT solutions, practical recommendations for policy makers, as well as sectoral analysis, case studies, and individual country reports with recommendations. It calculates that ICT could save 9.1 GtCO2e in GHG emissions by 2020.

About GeSI (Global e-Sustainability Initiative)

The Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) is a strategic partnership of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector and organizations committed to creating and promoting technologies and practices that foster economic, environmental, and social sustainability. Formed in 2001, GeSI’s vision is a sustainable world through responsible, ICT-enabled transformation. GeSI fosters global and open cooperation, informs the public of its members’ voluntary actions to improve their sustainability performance, and promotes technologies that foster sustainable development. GeSI has 32 members representing leading companies and associations from the ICT sector. GeSI also partners with two UN organizations—the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)—as well as a range of international stakeholders committed to ICT sustainability objectives. These partnerships help shape GeSI’s global vision regarding the evolution of the ICT sector, and how it can best meet the challenges of sustainable development. For more information, see www.gesi.org.

About the SMARTer 2020 Report

The study was undertaken by The Boston Consulting Group and funded by ICT sector group the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI). The supporting analysis was conducted independently by The Boston Consulting Group with the assistance of additional industry experts. Input was provided by GeSI member companies, ICT users, and the global experts consulted regarding alternative methodologies and application.

SMARTer 2020 was kindly sponsored by AT&T, Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Canada, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Nokia, Sprint, Telenor, and Verizon.

1 Smart 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age, 2008 (http://gesi.org/portfolio/project/5).

About bcgperspectives.com

Bcgperspectives.com features the latest thinking from BCG experts as well as from CEOs, academics, and other leaders. It covers issues at the top of senior management’s agenda. It also provides unprecedented access to BCG’s extensive archive of thought leadership stretching back 50 years to the days of Bruce Henderson, the firm’s founder and one of the architects of modern management consulting. All of our content—including videos, podcasts, commentaries, and reports—can be accessed by PC, mobile, iPad, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

About The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 81 offices in 45 countries.

Recent Releases

  • April 23, 2014 Chinese Online Shoppers Use Multiple Channels, Will Be 380 Million Strong by 2016 view full release
  • April 16, 2014 New Research Points to Ways Diversified Companies Can Overcome the Conglomerate Discount view full release
  • April 14, 2014 Former Cisco CIO Robbert Kuppens Joins BCG as Global CIO view full release
  • April 10, 2014 Higher Education Finds Promise in Peril view full release
  • April 09, 2014 Mexico’s Historic Energy Reforms Promise to Spur Investment view full release
  • April 07, 2014 To Cope with Complexity, Leaders Must Learn What Employees Actually Do; Usual Management Toolkits Are Likely Counter-Productive, Says New Book by The Boston Consulting Group view full release
  • April 02, 2014 Report Offers Solutions to Narrow $1 Trillion-a-Year Infrastructure Gap view full release
  • March 24, 2014 Former IRS Acting Commissioner and OMB Executive Daniel Werfel Joins BCG’s Public Sector Practice view full release
  • March 13, 2014 African Consumers Are Optimistic and Eager to Spend, but Selective and Highly Conscious of Brands—Even at Lower Income Levels view full release
  • March 11, 2014 Large Companies Claw Back Some Momentum in 2013’s Slower-Growth U.S. Consumer-Packaged-Goods Market view full release

Accelerating Out of the Great Recession

Accelerating Out of the Great RecessionThis book details what high-performing companies must do to seize advantage in a slow-growth environment. more

BCG Offices

Globe BCG has more than 80 offices around the world. Learn about our global presence.
Go

Social Impact

We are compelled to utilize our expertise to work with humanitarian organizations that impact local communities and the world at large. More