Climate change is raging and businesses are feeling the pressure to become sustainable. Some organizations have adapted to appease consumers and shareholders, while others have pledged to support environmental well-being. Whatever the business case, sustainability has become an imperative for many companies. However, new studies have shown that most corporate initiatives are not enough to offset the environmental degradation created by carbon emissions.
Critics say the companies are a major contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and need to do more to tackle climate change. The networks, which create a significant share of global emissions, could be an ideal starting point. Technology is a key tool for greening networks, communications and other areas of business operations.
“Several business establishments have used at least one green technology or practice in order to make their production processes more environmentally friendly,” wrote Matthew NO Sadiku, author of Taylor & Francis Group’s Emerging green technologies.
In 2021, Forbes estimated that 60% of organizations had adopted sustainability practices. However, new reports indicate that these efforts have fallen short of expectations. According to a February 2022 report, several companies that claimed to be committed to sustainability were found to have fabricated the extent of their initiatives. Press release from the NewClimate Institute. According to the report, 25 of the world’s largest companies have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions by just 40% under the guise of a net zero carbon emissions target.
Some typical sustainable business practices include reducing waste, using sustainable materials and supporting hybrid working. But experts say these strategies are not enough. Businesses may be able to further reduce their environmental footprint by implementing some of the green technologies Sadiku talks about in his book.
Information and communication technologies (ICT), for example, account for nearly 4% of global carbon emissions, ScienceDaily reported. According to Sadiku, radio access network operations are responsible for a substantial part of the effect of ICT on the environment, creating 30% of the global carbon footprint of mobile communications. Since wired and wireless networks contribute a large share of global ICT emissions, organizations with green networks could reduce their footprint on a larger scale.
Green networking may seem impractical to some because networks require large amounts of power to function properly. For example, while some sources claim that 5G play a critical role in the overall reduction of GHG emissions in companies, other resources note that this claim has yet to be substantiated. 5G base stations require more than three times the power consumed by previous-generation base stations, suggesting that modern networking techniques could be more taxing on the environment.
Despite the requirement of traditional networking strategies, ecological networking strategies exist and they start with the first network design. Network teams can implement energy-efficient technologies in their network design to support green networking and communication strategies, Sadiku wrote. Energy-efficient networking supports the environment and improves overall network efficiency, while reducing network management costs.
Network teams can reduce power consumption through the following factors:
- low power network devices;
- devices with automatic power-off capabilities; and
- renewable energy.
Other green networking techniques, from a network operations perspective, that improve energy efficiency and support sustainability include network virtualization and server consolidation. Many vendors also offer products and services to support sustainable networking.
In Chapter 10, “Green Communications and Networking,” Sadiku identifies goals, strategies, and benefits for green telecommunications. In this Q&A session, he explains how energy efficient networking strategies promote green networks and support sustainability efforts.
Editor’s note: The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How do practices such as server virtualization and consolidation promote green networks?
Matthew NO Sadiku: Virtualization can help you know if the network is operating in a way that does not contaminate the environment. With server consolidation, instead of having servers everywhere, they are in one place in a server center or data center, so there will be less contamination. The amount of pollution or environmental degradation will be less.
What other strategies promote green networks?
Sadiku: The problem is how the energy is generated. Any network requires energy, and how you create the energy to support the network is what can make the network green or ungreen. Using solar energy, for example, does not cause environmental degradation because you trap the sun’s energy. But if you use oil or gas to produce energy, it can create pollution.
What is the challenge of integrating energy saving techniques into networking, and how can teams overcome it?
Sadiku: Once a system is created, it’s hard to change it and do what you want to do because anything you design, you design with business in mind. The problem is that over time this system may become incompatible with future networks and new technologies. Something new comes out every day, so if you’re designing a system today, give it about five years. Things will change. The old network – or node devices – will not be able to work well with new technologies.
The only way to overcome it is to have some future technologies in mind. When you design something, it’s not just for today. You want it to last as long as possible. So you need to have an idea of where the technology is heading and design a system accordingly.