EIPC Technical Snapshot: ‘There Is No Green Without Digital’


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Introduced and moderated by EIPC’s Emma Hudson, the 20th EIPC Technical Snapshot focused on sustainability, specifically on environmental issues impacting the electronics industry. The first speaker was Pia Tanskanen, head of environment at Nokia in Finland. A pioneer in mobile telecom, Nokia is primarily a network hardware and software provider, committed to reducing the environmental impact of its products, operations, manufacturing, and supply chains, with sustainability a key component of the company’s strategy. 

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Commenting on relevant terminology, Tanskanen explained that “ESG” denotes environmental, social, and governance, and that “triple bottom line” effectively means “doing well by doing good,” as expressed in terms of people, profits, and the planet, thereby measuring the success of an organization via its corporate social responsibility in addition to its profits and returns to shareholders.

Environmental discussions should be broadened to examine how an organization’s business processes impact air, water, and land, classified with reference to energy and materials consumption across the value chain. What are the environmental issues relevant to Nokia’s business? The big one is the green transition of the power industries and the impact of that transition on the climate. Biodiversity—the variety of all life on Earth—was a second major topic, together with the geodiversity—fossils, minerals, landforms, and soils—and global sources of materials needed to manufacture products. 

Standards are extremely important in the electronics industry as a basis of uniformity and common understanding. Regulations such as RoHS and WEEE originated in Europe and have been extended to many other regions. But now, big changes are coming to the EU directives for reporting. Whereas reporting on environmental impact has been largely voluntary for companies, this will shortly become mandatory in both the EU and the United States. Tanskanen also referenced the EU Taxonomy initiative, a classification system defining rules by which economic activities are deemed to contribute to environmentally sustainable objectives. Regulations for the disclosure of environmental data are beginning to mirror those applied to financial data. She discussed how companies should address the management of environmental impact, and commented on the importance of the setting targets from both a customer and investor perspective.

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Tanskanen explained Nokia’s ESG approach to environmental management: to maximize positive handprint while minimising environmental footprint. Maximizing their handprint on industry, society, and the planet is being achieved through digitalization and enhanced connectivity solutions. This is supported by actions that seek to minimize the environmental footprint across their product portfolio, as well as their own operations and the emissions produced by their supply chain. She gave many examples of operational impact, product-level impact, and societal impact, and quoted independent statistics for the industry, indicating that the positive impact outweighed the negative impact by a factor of 10. Most environmental targets are now based on both climate science and the Paris Agreement and are subject to third-party verification.

The slogan, “There is no green without digital” was attributed to Pekka Lundmark, president and CEO of Nokia, who has stated: “We believe digitalization and connectivity solutions are critical to resolving many of the global problems facing society today—environmental, social, and economic.” 

Tanskanen went into some detail about Nokia’s approach to environmental management, characterizing it as a dynamic response to megatrends and environmental aspects in the value chain. The climate discussion had resulted in a consensus on the need for science-based targets and, from there, the company chose to tackle two other major issues: circular economy and biodiversity. 

A breakdown of Nokia’s own carbon footprint, based on greenhouse gas (GHG) protocols, indicated that 93% could be attributed to the use of their sold products. 

Nokia’s key long-term targets are to achieve 100% renewable energy in their own operations by 2025; a 50% reduction in Scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions, together with 95% waste circularity by 2030; and net zero in their own value chain by 2040. In terms of energy efficiency, Nokia’s solution is based on four pillars of improvement: hardware, technology, software, and optimisation. 

With the objective of maximizing circularity, consultation can provide a scope-of-work definition and solution creation that would include material collection, disassembly, and segregation, followed by maximizing material recycling to minimize landfill disposal of e-waste and refurbishing and reselling pre-owned equipment and parts. Tanskanen showed a flow chart for the incorporation of recycled material into new products, which would both benefit geodiversity, reduce emissions, and positively impact biodiversity.  

She concluded with a mention of the European Green Digital Coalition (EDGC), a European Commission-led initiative aimed at maximising the sustainability benefits of digitalisation within the ICT sector while supporting sustainability goals of other key sectors, including energy, transport, agriculture, and construction. The objective is to invest in the development and deployment of greener digital technologies and services to make these industries smarter and reduce their environmental impact.

In the Q&A session that followed, the most significant question from the audience concerned the potential effectiveness of new international reporting standards in light of certain governments and companies having recently been found guilty in making misleading environmental performance claims. She responded that the mandatory regulations put in place by the European Commission for the disclosure of environmental data required third-party verification, similar to those for financial data.

After EIPC’s Emma Hudson thanked the speaker, the organizers, and the attendees for a making this Technical Snapshot another very successful event, she announced that the regular EIPC Winter Conference will be held Feb. 9–10, 2023 in Lyon, France. Attendees will have the chance to tour the Bugey Nuclear Power Plant, although the number of participants will be capped at 96 delegates, so those wishing to be included should register their interest by Jan. 6.

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