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  • Andrew Byrne

Government plans greener ICT and digital services strategy

It’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind but part of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (Defra) brief is to ensure that the government’s digital infrastructure and associated supply chains adhere to the tenets of sustainability. In 2018 Defra published a document outlining their strategy on how the government’s information and communication technologies (ICT) would contribute to meeting net carbon zero by 2050 while complying with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

This document was updated in September 2020 with the publication of Greening Government: ICT and digital services strategy 2020-2025. Here, Defra acknowledges that decreases in their ICT and digital services carbon footprint had been due in part to “offshoring” to service providers and suppliers. This led to a change in strategy to include the services consumed by Defra and has also resulted to an update of sustainability objectives and commitments.

These can be summarised as:

  • To meet net zero by 2050 at the latest: All ICT suppliers commit to net zero in line with the Paris Agreement and demonstrate progress with road maps and action plans.

  • Circular economy: Government departments will increase recycling and reuse of materials to ensure zero waste being sent to landfill sites by end of this year and suppliers will do the same by 2025.

  • Transparency and accountability: Government departments immediately commit to purchase only from suppliers who comply with Modern Slavery Act. By 2025, all suppliers to government must identify any high risk areas in supply chains.

The document says that delivery of the strategy outlined in the Greening Government paper will provide reduced carbon and costs and simultaneously boost resilience, and responsibility.

These are all laudable aims but come at a time when revelations of the multi-million pound contracts offered by the government to private companies during the Covid-19 pandemic without being offered to tender have emerged. Such is the urgent nature of the public health issues at stake that mitigating circumstances can be claimed in awarding such contracts but scrutiny of the government’s relationships with private companies will increase.

Progress made by Defra in helping to meet the government’s climate crisis targets will be welcome.


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