Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

IT, Innovation, Sustainability, and Competitiveness

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The European Commission (EC) – executive body of the European Union responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, etc. – has released the 7th Synthesis Report of the Sectoral e-Business Watch (2010) entitled “ICT and e-Business for an Innovative and Sustainable Economy.” [Thanks to Roya Gholami for the heads up]. The conceptual framework used in the study is shown below:

A key finding of the study:

There is significant evidence that advances in ICT use are positively correlated with more sustainable production in energy-intensive manufacturing sectors and in the transport industry (see Chapter 2). However, the magnitude of ICT’s impact on emissions appears to change according to levels of output and ICT capital stock. Although ICT consistently reduced emissions in the sectors analysed over the sample period (1995-2005), the absolute reductions decreased over time.

Overall, the report represents a comprehensive overview of how information systems enable innovation and environmental sustainability, shedding light on what we know and what we don’t know.

One criticism of the report concerns its scope. More understanding is needed regarding 1) human and behavioral issues regarding IT for sustainability, such as adoption; 2) appropriate design methodologies; and 3) a service orientation in the development of effective systems, such as carbon/energy management systems in organizations. I touch on the first two in my MIS Quarterly paper. While econometric analysis is critical for policy making, complementary studies examining these additional areas would improve the overall inferences that can be drawn about the future of IT, innovation, and sustainability.

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Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

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