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What does the law say about IT footprint ?

In France, the National Digital Council (CNNum) was seized on February 11, 2020 by the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Its first report delivered and published in June 2020 displays a nice first roadmap, organized around 50 measures.

"No one is supposed to ignore the law". Digital weights on the planet as well as on people, as much as it brings. A subject that was already present but that today is increasingly taken into account and new reports/laws have been put in place. Awareness of all citizens and strong commitments will allow us to move towards a more sober, sustainable path and reduce the impact of our uses.

February 2020: circular economy: suffiency as a reduction of digital impacts.

In February 2020, the government had already passed a set of laws on the circular economy, some of which are not neutral on the obligations of companies. Laws passed before the COVID-19 crisis, which shows that the subject is not new.

The circular economy includes all practices prioritized according to their impact, which aim to optimize the use of materials and energy, limiting consumption, waste of resources and waste production.

This law is part of a collective awareness. Many measures target the digital sector: from strengthening consumer information to building a legal framework for software obsolescence, through the reform of extended producer responsibility, the mobilization of public ordering in favor of circular digital, the many measures promoting repair, reuse and re-employment, the accountability of platforms."

Two very concrete obligations from these laws:

- Mandatory reparability index on equipment since January 01, 2021

- Index of durability on equipment mandatory from 01 January 2022

Characteristic sheets on products will allow less waste and extend the life of products, information about the availability and price of spare parts, the ability of a device to perform updates and three criteria will be on: repairability, reuse.

The reparability of the product is now considered as one of the essential characteristics of the good.

To increase these lifetimes, an extension of the legal guarantee is planned (which is currently 2 years) and a ban on the destruction of unsold goods (penalties are created, up to €3,000 for a natural person and €15,000 for a legal person)


Also, producers of electrical and electronic equipment will have to create a fund dedicated to the financing of repair, in order to participate in the financing of the costs of repair carried out by certified repairers, as part of the extended producer responsibility. They will also have to create a fund dedicated to reuse, benefiting prevention, reuse and recycling operators.

This law will finally ensure that the consumer is properly informed and will then be able to make responsible and especially environmentally friendly purchases! There is no need to import products from the other side of the world for a functional good, it is enough to tighten the links between consumers and producers, via a system of replacement and recycling during the production cycle. Eco-design will also allow the reduction of product impacts.


The disposable era is over!

June 2020: CNNum's roadmap on the environment and digital

In France, the National Digital Council (CNNum) was seized on February 11, 2020 by the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Its first report delivered and published in June 2020 displays a nice first roadmap, organized around 50 measures.

"50 measures for a national and European agenda on a responsible digital, that is to say, sober and at the service of the ecological transition and sustainable development goals.

The challenge of these 50 measures? Bring the economic transition at the service of the ecological transition.

It is based on three areas of work. The first area calls for reducing the environmental footprint of digital products, the second invites to mobilize the potential of the latter to serve the ecological transition and solidarity, and finally, the third area aims to bring the whole of society towards a responsible digital. These three areas of work should make it possible to achieve three ambitious priority objectives:

- Reduce the environmental footprint of digital technology, with the goal of achieving zero emissions by 2030.

- Identify digital levers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2040

- By 2022, put in place a toolbox to achieve a digital economy that serves the ecological transition.

A real pragmatic and actionable instruction manual to achieve a responsible digital environment: sober and at the service of the ecological and solidarity-based transition.

June 2020: Senate report on the environmental footprint of digital technology

The Senate in the continuity of the various reflections of the government and the issues raised by the digital footprint has also published a report in June 2020, a report called: "For an ecological digital transition.

In summary, the subject of digital technology is still too scarcely documented and too little known, better knowledge and awareness of users on the environmental impact is one of the essential points. Private and public actors must integrate the environmental issue in their digital strategy.

The renewal of terminals, mainly manufacturing and distribution, must be imitated. Let's not forget that this represents 70% of the carbon footprint of digital technology in France. Taxes will be put in place on carbon and they are fighting against programmed obsolescence and software obsolescence.

To make emerge and develop ecologically virtuous digital uses and to go towards less energy consuming data centers and networks. Data will be defined as a resource requiring a sustainable management, the offers of telephone packages will be regulated and limit the impact of video uses (streaming will be more supervised: let's not forget that it represents 60% of the world's internet traffic).

The report can be downloaded here :


January 2021: reducing the environmental footprint of digital technology

The law voted in the Senate on January 12, 2021 is divided into 4 parts: Chapter 1 includes several provisions to make digital users aware of its environmental impact.

Chapter 2 aims to limit the renewal of terminals, the main culprits of the carbon footprint of digital technology by strengthening the fight against planned obsolescence by making the device sanctioned. From now on, it will be mandatory for the seller of goods with digital elements to separate security updates from other updates, as well as an increase, from two to five years, of the minimum duration for the consumer to receive updates necessary to maintain the conformity of his goods.

It will be possible for the user who has installed an update to restore the previous versions of the software supplied at the time of purchase of the good, as well as taking into account the criteria of product durability in the public purchase of certain digital products, based in particular on the criteria of the reparability index, which will be compulsory from January 1, 2021, and then the durability index from January 1, 2024

A reduction will be implemented on the VAT rate on the repair of terminals and the acquisition of reconditioned electronic objects to limit new purchases.

Chapter 3 tends to promote the development of ecologically virtuous digital uses, it will now be mandatory for websites and services to be eco-designed, and it will be necessary to integrate information relating to the strategies and techniques deployed in the design of these contents in the CSR declaration of companies operating as content providers. For example, it will be mandatory for on-demand audiovisual media services to adapt the quality of the downloaded video to the maximum resolution of the terminal and to prohibit the automatic launch of videos

Chapter 4 includes provisions to move towards less energy-intensive data centers and networks by requiring data centers to make binding multi-year commitments to reduce their environmental impact.

February 2021: Roadmap: towards digital sobriety for the ecological transition with sustainable development objectives.

Digital technology is now a subject in its own right in the proposals on environmental impacts. It is a powerful lever for the ecological transition. It is an element of mobilization of all the actors in order to accelerate the change. Three axes structure this roadmap:

1. Knowing in order to act: Develop knowledge of the digital environmental footprint

2. Support a more sober digital world: Reduce the environmental footprint of digital technology, linked to the manufacture of equipment and the development of uses

3. Innovate: Make digital technology a lever for the ecological transition

To achieve the objective of a sober digital world, we must start by consuming better and above all designing fewer goods and services to manufacture them in such a way that sustainability, sobriety and their integration into the circular economy are the new principles of design and manufacturing methods to reduce our usage.

Make people aware that everything has an environmental impact and that it is possible to modify our consumption mode, to automatically analyze our carbon footprint. A better collection, reuse and especially repair goods.

"Products should be designed to last longer, be properly maintained and easy to disassemble and recycle.""

March 2021 climate law: towards a change in consciousness about the carbon impact of computer use.

This text aims to guarantee the development in France of a sober, responsible and ecologically virtuous digital industry.


Even if this law is still under discussion, here are the main ideas.

The goal here is to accelerate the ecological transition in all areas of our daily lives. At the time of the climate crisis and the COVID period which reinforces the use of the Internet and its tools, the stakes remain high.

Different stakes: first of all, make digital users aware of their environmental impacts. This can be done through education from a young age on digital sobriety or through the obligation to display the characteristics of a product or service (seen above on the circular economy). A Carbon Score like we can see when buying a washing machine for example, which will become mandatory if the experiments have positive returns on the long term.

Then, limit the renewal of digital terminals, whose manufacture represents 70% of the carbon footprint of the digital industry in France, in particular by making the crime of programmed obsolescence truly effective.

It would also be a matter of promoting ecologically virtuous digital uses: that is, preventing access to a telephone package with unlimited data.

The laws adopted are those against the marketing obsolescence of smartphones by reinforcing consumer information about "subsidized" offers that associate the purchase of a smartphone with the subscription of a package, which pushes to a renewal. And the one on the creation of a general eco-design benchmark aiming at setting criteria for more sustainable design of websites.

Adopted on April 1, the amendment gives the Electronic Communications Regulatory Authority (Arcep) the ability to collect information and documents on the environmental footprint of the electronic communications sector, and those closely related to it. In case of failure to provide the requested information, sanctions may be imposed.

Regarding the amount of the sanctions, several scenarios are foreseen depending on the case. It can be calculated according to an initial scale not exceeding 150,000 euros in the case of a first violation, then 375,000 euros in the case of a new violation. It can also be calculated on the basis of the highest worldwide turnover before tax, depending on the seriousness of the facts and the benefits derived from them. The ceilings are 3% for a first fault and 5% for each subsequent fault.

Author : Clémence Marin

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