As the corporate world increasingly aligns itself with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals, the spotlight is firmly placed on carbon management strategies. One unexpected ally in this mission is an accurate hardware asset inventory.
It may seem counterintuitive, but a comprehensive understanding of your physical hardware assets, your assets inventory, their quantity, quality and how they are used, can significantly contribute to an accurate carbon emission balance sheet. helping you achieve your goals for carbon reduction or offsetting with clear and detailed data.
Understanding the Impact your Cyber Physical Systems
Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) play an increasingly important role in our IT/OT infrastructure. However, the manufacture, use, and disposal of these physical assets inventory also contribute to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Therefore, managing their environmental impact is crucial. The commonly recognized contributing elements of CO2 emissions:
The production of Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) involves sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, and transportation, all of which lead to CO2 emissions. For example, rare earth minerals used in these assets often need to be mined and processed, leading to significant emissions.
CPS assets consume energy throughout their lifespan. Servers, computers, routers, switches, and a myriad of other assets run on electricity. Depending on how the electricity is generated, this can lead to substantial CO2 emissions. Data centers, which house thousands of servers, are a particularly notable source of energy consumption.
Most organizations follow a proper, organized, onboarding process for new physical assets. While at the end of their lifecycle, the offboarding or decommissioning process of assets inventory is not as organized. If CPS assets are not properly disposed of or stay connected without being used, they can contribute to CO2 emissions.
As a result, the CPS domain is coming under increasing scrutiny for its environmental impact. It is estimated that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector contributes around 1.4-2.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And this is expected to rise with increasing digitalization.
ESG and the CO2 Emission’s challenges
For companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve ESG goals, managing the environmental impact of their CPS is crucial. This includes strategies like improving energy efficiency, using renewable energy sources, optimizing equipment usage. And ensuring responsible end-of-life disposal or recycling.
An accurate asset inventory involves creating and maintaining a thorough, up-to-date record of every physical asset that a company owns and uses (physical layer visibility). This involves not only keeping track of what you own but also monitoring their usage, location, and status.
CO2 Impact in numbers
Let’s consider an example of a laptop. Laptops have a significantly greater impact in practice, mainly due to users wanting to replace them more frequently. Laptop replacement frequency has an extra significance because the GHG emissions arising from manufacture of a laptop are substantially greater than for a desktop.
Carbon footprint depends significantly on the IT equipment you have. Based on supplier data for PC models used extensively within the University, scaled to use over a six-year period, the carbon footprints of some typical working setups are**:
- Desktop + screen: 621kg CO2e
- Laptop* + screen: 691kg CO2e (+11%)
- Desktop + 2 screens: 903kg CO2e (+45%)
- Laptop* + screen at office + screen at home: 928kg CO2e (+49%)
- Desktop + screen + laptop*: 1,030kg CO2e (+66%)
* Note that a laptop replacement cycle of four years has been assumed
** Source: Oxford University, “Environmental impact of IT: desktops, laptops and screens”, April 2022
The Link Between Asset Inventory and Carbon Emissions
So, how does an accurate asset inventory impact a company’s carbon emissions? The relationship may not seem apparent at first, but once you dig deeper, the connection becomes clear.
Firstly, an accurate inventory allows organizations to identify and manage underutilized or idle devices. These devices, while not contributing to productivity, continue to draw power and contribute to the company’s carbon footprint. By identifying these devices, companies can switch them off or repurpose them, thereby reducing unnecessary energy consumption and carbon emissions.
Secondly, the asset inventory provides critical data for procurement decisions. By understanding the full scope of their assets landscape, companies can make more informed decisions about what hardware assets they need to acquire. This understanding can drive the purchase of more energy-efficient devices and retire older inefficient devices. Contributing to lower carbon emissions in the long run.
Finally, maintaining an accurate asset inventory can facilitate more effective end-of-life management of devices. By knowing precisely what devices a company owns and their life-cycle status, organizations can plan for responsible disposal or recycling of these assets. Minimizing electronic waste and the associated carbon emissions.
Creating an Accurate Carbon Emission Balance Sheet
By integrating the accurate asset inventory into their carbon management strategies, organizations can create a more precise carbon emission balance sheet. The asset inventory provides the data necessary to calculate the direct and indirect carbon emissions from their digital assets.
This accuracy not only contributes to improved carbon management but also enhances the credibility and transparency of the company’s ESG reporting. In a world where stakeholders are increasingly demanding accountability in carbon emissions, a reliable and accurate carbon emission balance sheet can significantly boost a company’s reputation.
Possible outcome of having an accurate asset visibility when trying to reduce the CO2 emission:
First and foremost, the main way that organization can reduce the environmental impact of upstream supply chain activity is to buy less, obvious, yet it still needs to be highlighted – when you have the exact number of your physical assets you can reduce the overhead margins.
An important aspect of sustainability in the supply chain is ensuring that ‘spare’ equipment is returned to IT Services for reuse at the earliest possible opportunity. This ensures that organizations make maximum use of the equipment while it is operable, avoids unnecessary new purchases.
Leveraging Asset Inventory for Carbon Management and Sustainable Cybersecurity
The intersection of cybersecurity and ESG goals presents an exciting opportunity for organizations to better understand and manage their carbon emissions. An accurate asset inventory can significantly contribute to carbon management, enabling more precise calculations, informed decision-making, and credible reporting for carbon emission offsetting.
It’s time for organizations to recognize the potential of asset inventory not only as a cybersecurity tool but also as a key component of their ESG strategy. By leveraging this, they can progress further towards a sustainable and secure future – introducing a new color to existing cybersecurity red, blue, purple, white colors by forming a new concept, the green team.
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