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Reducing global carbon emissions by nudging consumers

Written by Peter-Jan Roose

Tech companies still have a lot on their plate to reduce direct emissions from business operations and energy sources’ emissions (e.g. electricity of data centers). These so-called ‘Scope 1’ and ‘Scope 2’ emissions are the low-hanging fruits.

Many companies actively work on reducing Scope 1 & 2 emissions for more than a decade. An example of an easy fix is to purchase renewable energy for the supply of buildings and data centers. Google, a leader in those actions, already runs on 100% renewable energy for its operations and data centers since 2017. [1]

A major source of carbon emissions for tech companies is the indirect emission linked to activities along its value chain, better known as ‘Scope 3’. A tangible example of this is the induced electricity consumption at the end-user stage of the product. Think about electricity to power your laptop, phone, internet router, etc; or the energy to store your data, emails, pictures, etc. In 2017, Scope 3 accounted for approximately 90% of tech companies' emissions, reaching 723 859 825 metric tons of CO2 [2]. This is comparable to the total yearly emissions of Germany! [3] Hence, consumers’ and suppliers’ emissions are the high stakes, high rewards.

Here are 3 actions tech companies can take to incentivize consumers to reduce their emissions [4]:

  • Put a price on carbon

It is possible to price the carbon emissions of a product and to allow the consumer to take on this cost. Companies can then reinvest 100% of the gains in carbon capture technology funds. Stripe, an online payment platform, is an excellent example of this practice. They allow the consumer to contribute a percentage of their payment to such a fund. [5]

On the one hand, this initiative reduces the consumption of carbon-intensive products. On the other hand, it brings investments in new technologies that are still in the development phase.

  • Increase product lifespan

Did you know that doubling the life span of a smartphone, from one year and a half to three years, would be the equivalent of removing two million cars off the road annually? [6] Teracube[7], a smartphone manufacturer, provides a warra