EURid: Being green pays off in increased competitiveness

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It is not by making new regulations that policy-makers will force ICT companies to reduce their carbon footprint, but rather pushing member states to implement existing rules and convincing companies that they gain in competitiveness, argues Marc Van Wesemael, EURid CEO, in an interview with EURACTIV.

Marc Van Wesemael is CEO of EURid, the European Registry of Internet Domain Names,which  manages the .eu top-level Internet domain, under contract to the European Commission

For all their focus on innovation, tech companies have been criticized for being profoundly conventional when it comes to making decisions about energy needs. How to make ICT more sustainable?

Marc Van Wesemael is CEO of EURid, the European Registry of Internet Domain Names,which  manages the .eu top-level Internet domain, under contract to the European Commission

For all their focus on innovation, tech companies have been criticized for being profoundly conventional when it comes to making decisions about energy needs. How to make ICT more sustainable?

ICT companies are quite often seen as not having  an environmental impact. Therefore, we believe that information sharing could be a key element to push the ICT industry to look into its business and move towards more sustainable activities. The EMAS [Eco-Management Audit Scheme]  exercise has been, is and will be a learning process for us and the kind of operations we manage. We plan to communicate our environmental commitment not only to the stakeholders of the top level domain eco-system, but also to our suppliers and to other interested parties at international level. We believe that this will help many ICT players to realise how small initiatives can make a difference.

 Tech companies are also notoriously unwilling to disclose information about their electricity use, on the grounds that it could be used by business rivals. Do you find this acceptable?

One of the core documents of the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme is the so-called "Environmental Statement" where we list some basic data of our activities as well as the objectives for the next three years. There should be a pondered balance between what should be disclosed and the need to safeguard your business. The EMAS scheme is an efficient way to increase transparency around what any company produces. 

 Do you expect the sector going carbon neutral in reasonable times?

Considering the vast number of players, that is hard to foresee, but there should be more cross-border efforts to underscore the importance that the ICT sector goes for sustainability.

EURid will sign up to the EU econ-management and audit scheme (EMAS). Do your really think such voluntary tools are useful to more sustainable ICT?

EMAS is an extremely valuable way to frame what a company is already doing to increase its sustainability. Over the past three years at EURid we have implemented specific and concrete actions to reduce our carbon footprint, like launching e-invoicing, choosing one of the greenest European data centers, organising events on the basis of the UNEP guidelines. Therefore, "environmental considerations were already in our veins" and EMAS has been a nice method to structure them. We believe that these voluntary tools are instrumental to complete a process that should be already present or under development in a company.

Do we need more and/or better regulation?  What exactly?

As members of the Internet community, we are in favour of light regulations. Probably, at environmental level it is not a matter of adding more regulations, but eventually to have them better enforced at Member States level as well as to build common incentives to support any industry effort towards a greener Europe.

Where do you see additional opportunities to more and better green ICT?

Translating green ICT priorities into practice might be seen as a not-so-easy exercise. However, in the market there are already solutions and products that can boost competitiveness while paying attention to sustainable processes. We are happy to be the leader in environmental best practices within the top level domain (TLD) sector. We will continue to work and share our sustainable initiatives with our colleagues in the Internet industry as we believe that if what we have done is taken up by all the TLD managers and their stakeholders in Europe, that will represent a great contribution to our lives.

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