Sustainability in ICT – what the heck?

It was not long ago that people used to think that everything digital equals sustainable. Now the ICT sector is at a turning point. We are waking up to the fact (pinpointed by The Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative) that ICT uses around 20% of global energy. That’s quite a lot.

Finland has taken steps in adapting sustainability to the ICT sector early on – providing an excellent environment for development of sustainable solutions.

Finland has and has had a vivid ICT ecosystem and big pool of talented engineers since the 1990s, but did you know that the world’s 1st professor for sustainable ICT was appointed in Finland as early as 2013?

Also, the political decision-makers are in full swing. In 2019, The Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communication pioneered in launching the world’s 1st Climate and Environmental Strategy for the ICT Sector. Finland’s vision is to become the forerunner of operating and development of ecologically sustainable ICT solutions by 2035. The national Green ICT ecosystem started operating in 2022.

Finnish companies take environmental sustainability seriously. According to Ecovadis company assessments (2022), the environmental performance of Finnish companies is way beyond EU and OECD averages. And now, many multinational ICT companies are now turning to Finland, in order to transform their businesses more sustainable.

Selected green ICT examples from Finland

Forerunner sustainable case examples can be found across the whole ICT value chain, from components to software and way beyond. Special expertise can be found e.g. in sustainable component design and manufacturing, circularity of hardware, green coding, and green data centers. Also the high availability of green electricity and its globally competitive low price is one of the most important reasons why companies are investing in Finland.

Compostable electronics

The revolutionary ECOtronics research and development project aims at transforming the electronics industry. A group of companies and research institutions, led by VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland, develop both electronic materials and manufacturing methods that are more environmentally friendly. The focus is on creating electronics and optics that are both safely recyclable and compostable, by utilizing renewable resources, and developing more material efficient manufacturing flow.

Chip Zero, the modern hero? 

The heavy growth of the semiconductor industry requires more environment-friendly technologies as well as more scaled manufacturing to support the growth. Picosun responds to these challenges by leading an R&D program in Finland called 'Chip Zero'. The aim of the program is to make semiconductor manufacturing more sustainable. Specific goals include achieving a 50-percent reduction in energy and chemical consumption of thin-film deposition and a double-digit increase in the efficiency of power electronic component applications by 2030. These goals will help contribute to developing chips with zero lifetime emissions. 

Heating homes with data centers 

In 2022, Fortum, a leading energy company in Finland, and Microsoft unveiled a groundbreaking collaboration. Fortum will harness the surplus heat produced by a forthcoming Microsoft data center in the Helsinki metropolitan area. These data centers will operate on 100% emission-free electricity. Fortum will then redistribute the clean heat extracted during the server cooling process to homes and business premises that are linked to its district heating system. This waste heat recycling concept will be the largest of its kind globally.

Written by

Annabella Polo
Senior Advisor, Market Intelligence Annabella Polo

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Janne Kari
Head of Industry, ICT & Digitalization Janne Kari

Communications and Mobility, Electronics and Electrics, Games and Immersive, Software and Data