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Commendation by the Technology and Digital Leaders Network Chair
From cradle to grave, or even cradle to cradle, we will need to be sure that we are using clean and green digital and technology services and practices. With the range and depth of UK’s and UK government commitment to sustainability outcomes, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Carbon budgets, fair and sustainable employment practices, we can ill afford to have “skeletons in the cupboard”.
With the vast majority of our digital and technology services now being purchased rather than ‘home grown’, procurement provides the main lever for that assurance. Defining requirements, evaluation and contract provisions should take on board best practices from the repository being built and shared by the Green ICT Delivery Unit (GDU). We also need to address the challenge of getting underneath the Cloud services we procure to be sure the assets and staffing they use are sustainable. The GDU is working to find ways of assessing the benefits and impacts of Cloud services.
The best practices in the repository will cover all stages of the typical lifecycle for a technology service including:
- construction of the assets being purchased or deployed for the service (is recycled material being used, are we avoiding use of Conflict Minerals, are construction workers fairly employed and deployed, is the production process energy efficient, does it use natural resources efficiently preventing unnecessary waste?)
- operation of the assets deployed and of the support services wrapping those assets (are power modes enabled to minimise energy waste, are employment and shift patterns for support and help desk staff fair?)
- disposal of assets and decommissioning of services (adoption of the Waste Hierarchy, tracking the disposed asset, avoiding land fill). This also includes seeking equipment with significant second life potential and alternative business models such as leasing to encourage circularity
There are various industry standards and codes providing assurance of best practice adoption and these will be included in the repository that the GDU will launch. This will also link to the GDS Technology Code of Practice, ensuring sustainable technology investments.
And that is not the end of the story, recognising the sustainability impacts and costs of the services and assets we need to ensure they are used to best effect and at least ‘balance the books’ if not deliver a sustainability return (net gain) for our organisations, customers and UK PLC. In contributing to the achievement of the Greening Government Commitments we need to look at Technology and Digital services enabling energy efficiencies, travel and paper reductions, reducing landfill, and helping to reduce the impact of severe weather events on government operations and our impacts on bio-diversity and the natural environment.
By 2020 measured improvement in the environmental, societal and economic impacts of Digital and Technology services and assets with deployment of a repository of best practices with measured contributions to wider Greening Government commitments and to improved more sustainable ways of working for staff, organisation and customers.
The story so far
- GDU formed
- Green ICT strategy launched. With tools
- Transparency commitment
- Chair DECC CIO, Senior Responsible Owner is MOD CIO
- One year on paper, with MP support from Cabinet Office.
- Green ICT strategy refreshed
- Annual reports published
- Chair DECC
- Annual report published with level 3 commitment achieved for majority of Departments
- Chair moved to Defra
- Annual report completed
- Reporting aligned to Greening Government Commitments’
- Embedded within Technology Code of Practice
- Annual report completed and published by Defra
- 2020 Greening Government Sustainable Technology Strategy published by Defra
Since the publication of the original Greening Government IT Strategy in 2011 there have been major changes in the government’s approach to technology and digital services. These are entirely consistent with driving improved sustainability for government technology. The move to cloud based, commodity, re-useable and digital by default services, provides opportunities to have greener IT and to use technology to help departments’ operations be more sustainable overall.
There is also a strong central commitment through the Way We Work (TW3) programme to ensure that crown servants have the modern tools they need to enable them to work effectively together and with customers. New greener digital technologies and sustainable working practices will help do just that as well as improve the quality of deliverables by providing more timely and inclusive development.
However the proliferation of digital, technology and data services, coupled with the globalisation of service supply and increasing levels and layers of virtualisation removes us, the consumers, from the physical and sustainability impacts of the assets used to deliver them.
The UK government recognises the environmental, social and financial benefits from leaner, greener operations, estate management and procurement. The 2020 Greening Government Commitments programme sets out the UK government’s commitment to delivering sustainable operations and procurement by 2020. Of particular note are the departmental commitments on Sustainable Procurement to understand and reduce supply chain impacts and risks.
The 2011 Greening Government ICT Strategy concentrated on embedding the building blocks required to deliver sustainable ICT within government Departments. In 2016 the average maturity score across departments weighted by staff numbers was 3.51 (out of 5) with all 14 contributing organisations reaching the target minimum level 3 (practised). Therefore, with a good branding achieved and the building blocks in place, there is an aim to concentrate on delivery of best practices.
Key to the success of this strategy will be the alignment of the objectives to a number of other government and wider initiatives such as the Cabinet Office/Government Digital Service (GDS) Digital by Default and Ways of Working programmes (TW3), the Government Properties Unit Estates Strategy, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the EU Circular Economy Package, Carbon Budgets, Single Use Plastics and the Defra 25 Environment Plan to name a few.
Purpose and applicability
The Sustainable Technology Strategy addresses 3 key challenges, to:
- describe how government best procures and exploits Information and communications technology for Sustainable outcomes
- outline the Sustainable ICT response to departmental transformation programmes, plans and commitments and wider government imperatives
- provide a guiding view of how government can meet the sustainability challenges and opportunities provided by digital technologies and digitalization
This will be achieved through the delivery of the outcomes in Annex A. When this strategy is being used within procurement activity, i.e. tendering, the Annex is the key reference for tendering responses.
Underlying all activities and actions within this strategy are a set of sustainability principles:
- minimizing waste and embracing circular economy concepts
- using resources more sustainably and efficiently
- social, Legal and Ethical ICT
- mitigating and adapting to climate change and other supply chain risks
- life Cycle Analysis and Whole Life Costing
- seeking Innovation opportunities
It is a clear intent that the scope of the activities and reporting cover Digital and Technology services and assets wherever used for work. It covers the entire lifecycle of assets deployed and services provided from cradle to cradle and includes both on-site and off-site provisions. Recognising the increasing complexity and growing risk of ICT supply and delivery it requires organisations to report and reduce social, environmental and economic sustainability impacts for their entire Supply chains.
The organisational scope matches that of the Greening Government Commitments 2016 to 2020 and the timing of annual reporting will also be aligned.
Recognising the importance of working collaboratively all work will be conducted with a wide range of stakeholders from across industry, academia, government and professional bodies including, but not exclusively:
- GDS Technology Leaders Network
- GDS Technology Code of Practice team
- CCS ICT procurement leads
- Government Commercial
- GDU members
- Tech UK
- Carbon Trust
- BCS Green ICT and Data Centre Specialist Groups
- Current Digital, Technology and ICT suppliers
This section describes the results from delivering the strategy.
Government ICT services must be robust in the face of Climate Change / severe weather events, and problems of resource scarcity or availability. They will not support negative social impact and must promote the positive. Furthermore these digital and technology services must be fully utilised, contributing to and enabling achievement of the 2020 Greening Government Commitments by delivering savings of office space, energy, paper, and travel and through use of a pool of best practices.
There will be a net reduction in impacts with the wider sustainability impact reductions exceeding the impacts of the ICT services themselves.
The government must be recognised as one of the leaders in adopting and exploiting sustainable ICT, in UK, Europe and globally.
The main outcome is:
A resilient digital and technology ecosystem, fully utilised by digital citizens, delivering a net gain for the environment and society through reduced impacts and measurable benefits.
The strategic outcomes are key to the strategy’s implementation in that they allow all stakeholders and suppliers to understand and participate in key activities and outputs. Moreover, they form the framework against which progress will be measured and reported ensuring that implementation is coherent and focused on achieving outcomes which deliver tangible sustainability benefits.
This section describes the actions required to deliver the strategy.
We will actively engage with industry, government departments, academia and monitor social and mainstream media, identifying trends and quickly assessing potential threats and opportunities for government. We will champion best practice and innovation, forming a repository to be made available to all.
The GDU will be engaged in all new government frameworks and procurements of Digital and Technology services and assets, including refreshes, so are able to ensure they cover off proven industry best practices and codes of conduct for sustainable ICT.
Active communication of the benefits, risks, issues and opportunities will be vital as we cannot fail to win hearts and minds of procurement community who may feel it is not affordable to make short term investments for longer term gains. This will help mitigate any skeletons in the cupboard such as uncontrolled government e-waste, unacceptable staffing arrangements, child/slave labour in supply chains, flood risk data centres locations and dirty fuel supplies/power supplies.
The GDU will launch a rolling programme of initiatives through the formation of sub-working groups, working with industry and other administrations to address ICT sustainability risks and issues of concern to stakeholders that impact government Digital and Technology services and operations.
Government will quantify and report on its e-waste and Energy and Carbon footprint of the Digital and Technology services it uses and their sustainability impacts.
To support the enabling of the meeting of the Greening Government Commitments the GDU will seek E-Waste Targets of zero to landfill and adoption of a Skype/E-Conference first policy across government by 2020.
Departments will provide an annual Strategy Statement focussing on a current area for improvement which will feed into case studies captured in the annual reporting.
This section described the resources and tools required to deliver the strategy.
The GDU will work with a wide range of stakeholders including Departmental/Agency teams for Sustainable Procurement, Estates, Waste and the Greening Government Commitments. The Government Digital Services Technology Code of Practice team, Government Commercial, Crown Commercial Services, key suppliers and industry and professional bodies such as the British Computer Society (BCS).
The GDU will provide a regularly refreshed set of minimum ICT sustainability provisions (including energy/carbon reporting) that will be used in all government digital and technology services frameworks and contracts as appropriate, and where appropriate in the GDS Technology Code of Practice. The GDU will alos seek to provide advice and guidance on embedding Sustainability within methodologies such as Prince2, APMP, ITIL, TOGAF and MSP.
The GDU will provide an accessible repository of Industry best practices and codes of conduct covering the lifecycle of assets and services, and the use of digital and technology services on government operations regularly refreshed and assured will be created and maintained.
The GDU will investigate tooling to allow all key services to be risk assessed for Sustainability impacts such as climate change, geopolitical, material security, to allow mitigations and contingency provisions to be put in place.
There remains a need for Sustainable ICT skilled people to operate ICT Services and inform change programmes. The GDU will continue to engage with professional bodies and developers or skills frameworks to inform the sustainability agenda.
Governance and controls
Defra are the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for the GDU and Ministry of Defence provide the secretariat. The GDU reports to the Government Digital Services (GDS) Technology/Digital Leaders Network (TDLN). There is also separate reporting into the cross-government sustainability Forum.
Annual reporting is reviewed and endorsed by the TDLN and published on Gov.uk. The reports cover:
- metrics for waste, landfill and e-meeting targets
- energy and carbon footprints taking care to provide meaningful tracking of progress with due regard for workload and staffing changes
- retired and new practices / innovations
- case studies
- significant contributions to the GGCs and other government/International commitments
The annual assessments and measurements are backed up by a Community of best practice, an evolving and up to date repository of peer reviewed best practice and engagement with industry and professional bodies.
Summary of departmental commitments
UK Departments and supporting agencies, in conjunction with the GDU, will:
- provide an annual strategy statement which will be included within annual reporting to be published on GOV.UK
- actively engage with industry, other government departments, academia and monitor social and mainstream media, identifying trends and quickly assessing potential threats and opportunities for government
- be engaged in all new government frameworks and procurements of digital and technology services and assets
- communicate any benefits, risks, issues and opportunities associated with these activities
- launch a rolling programme of initiatives through the formation of sub-working groups, to address ICT sustainability risks and issues
- quantify and report on its e-waste and energy and carbon footprint of the digital and technology services used and their sustainability impacts
- seek e-waste targets of zero to landfill by 2020
- adopt an “e-conferencing facility first” approach/policy to meetings, seeking to positively impact reduction of journeys with a target of 40% reduction
- provide a regularly refreshed set of minimum ICT sustainability provisions (including energy/carbon reporting)
- provide an accessible repository of industry best practices and codes of conduct covering the lifecycle of assets and services
- investigate tooling to allow all key services to be risk assessed for sustainability impacts
- engage with professional bodies and developers or skills frameworks to inform the sustainability agenda
- promote and report on the Hierarchy of Objectives (Annex A) with procurement activities and industry engagement
Annex: Government outcomes – a hierarchy
A resilient digital and technology ecosystem, fully utilised by digital citizens, delivering a net gain for the environment and society through reduced impacts and measurable benefits
Government quantifies and reports on its e-waste and its energy and carbon footprint of the digital and technology services it uses and their sustainability impacts.
E-waste is minimised and landfill avoided where possible (working towards zero landfill).
E-conferencing services adopted as preferred meeting technique working towards 40% of government meetings conducted without attendee travel required.
ICT footprint tools and techniques for both on and off premise are developed.
All key services assess for sustainability risks, issues and opportunities with mitigations and contingency provisions in place where necessary.
2.1 Risk tooling
Risk tooling will be investigated to allow all key services to be risk assessed for sustainability impacts such as climate change, geopolitical, material security, to allow mitigations and contingency provisions to be put in place.
Working with industry and other stakeholders to ensure that government digital and technology services are procured using a minimum set of ICT sustainability provisions.
The GDU leads an active community sharing experience of practices, learning from the experience, case studies, gathering intelligence from experience, industry and suppliers.
3.2 Gold standards
A regularly refreshed set of minimum ICT sustainability provisions used in all government digital and technology services frameworks and contracts as appropriate, and where appropriate in the GDS technology code of practice.
Opportunities provided by new and existing digital and technology services, including data, are fully exploited to achieve a net gain for the environment and society.
A rolling programme of initiatives working with industry, other administrations to address ICT sustainability issues of concern to stakeholders that impact government digital and technology services and operations.
An accessible repository of industry best practices and codes of conduct covering the lifecycle of assets and services, and the use of digital and technology services on government operations regularly refreshed and assured.