The Digital Sustainability Alliance has officially launched, deploying its mission to confront the environmental impact of storing and processing digital data. The initiative looks to cut the carbon and cost of data by at least 80 percent by partnering with industry experts, innovators, and tech solutions.
The Alliance has drawn attention to a significant, but as yet largely unaddressed issue. According to their estimates, network traffic and data centres are responsible for 2.3 percent of global CO2 emissions, a worrying figure surpassing that of the global aviation industry.
The Digital Sustainability Alliance was founded in recognition of the urgent need for environmental stewardship in the digital age, orchestrating the efforts of three key members (Storj, Ad Signal, and Valdi). Established to build a greener, faster, and more secure digital world, the founders welcome additional players, educators, and influencers, hoping to inspire a united effort in tackling the problem.
Looking to the future, if there is no intervention, the predicted carbon output from data centres, data processing, and video could account for 14 percent of the world's carbon emissions by 2040. This is according to research from Computerworld, which suggests that data could ultimately become a bigger contributor to global carbon emissions than agriculture. Rapid developments in carbon-intensive technologies like generative AI, along with global data creation growing at a rate of 23 percent annually, mean the need for action is now.
"Digital sustainability is the biggest untold story out there. Politicians and environmental activists often warn of the existential threat of global warming, but few know about and truly understand the extent of the issue that digital sustainability presents.," says Ben Golub, Co-founder of the Digital Sustainability Alliance and CEO of Storj.
"The Digital Sustainability Alliance has been formed to open the eyes of policymakers, big tech companies and industry to the stark reality of the carbon impacts of data consumption and the urgent need for digital sustainability," he says.
Through thought leadership and practical solutions, the Alliance aims to transform digital practices.
Golub emphasised the potential of member companies, suggesting "If the world exclusively used the tech solutions of companies similar to the Alliance's members, we could potentially reduce the carbon output of data centres from 14 percent down to just 2 percent."
Tom Dunning, Co-founder of the Digital Sustainability Alliance and CEO of Ad Signal, also called for vigilance in innovation.
"The world has embraced AI and other emerging technologies with little understanding of the consequences and carbon output." He underscored the importance of education in realising a shift in policies and practices to counter the increasing threat of CO2 emissions," he says.
The Alliance is geared towards fostering a greener future while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of innovation. Key among their proposed solutions are measures such as removing duplicates to reduce video storage sizes and utilising empty space in data centres, aimed at optimising and reducing existing storage worldwide.
"The Digital Sustainability Alliance establishes itself as a leading voice for inventive, sustainable technology practices. It calls on government, industry, and other relevant stakeholders to join in their pursuit."