Digital pollution: definition, impact, issues,

Reduce the environmental footprint of your information system by purchasing your used software licenses on the Softcorner marketplace.

Digital Pollution

At a time when companies are going digital, processes are being digitized, services are being digitized, artificial intelligence, big data and cloud technologies are being developed, digital technology has become a vector for solutions to combat global warming, but its carbon footprint is becoming increasingly heavy on a global level.

Definition of digital pollution  

For Greenpeace, the digital pollution brings together all the pollution caused by the digital sector in the manufacturing, distribution, use and end-of-life phases. This pollution is of various kinds: greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of natural resources, disastrous conditions of extraction of raw materials, destruction of biodiversity, production of electronic waste.    

The environmental impact of digital technology

The global digital ecosystem is responsible for almost 4 % of greenhouse gas emissions. In France, it represents more than 16 million tons of CO2 per year, or 2.5 % of total emissions in 2020. The digital pollution comes mainly from equipment (almost 80 %), data centers (15 %) and data and telecom networks (5 %). 


Computer equipment   


ADEME (French Agency for Ecological Transition) and Arcep (telecom regulator) state in their report on the environmental assessment of digital equipment and infrastructure in France that the digital pollution of companies is largely linked to the manufacture of computer equipment such as desktop and laptop computers, computer monitors, printers and rack servers. This manufacturing is at the origin of :

  • 29 % of energy consumption;
  • 54 % of greenhouse gas emissions ;
  • 61 % of water use ;
  • 97 % depletion of natural resources.   

For example, to manufacture a computer, 800 kg of raw materials are needed, and this phase is responsible for the production of 124 kg of CO2 of the 169 kg emitted over its entire life cycle. A smartphone uses 54 raw materials in its manufacture.

Breakdown of environmental impacts in the company by area of activity  

Unsurprisingly, the most damaging activity within the enterprise is the user environment (which includes the manufacturing of the computer terminal, software licenses, power consumption...), followed by data centers, IT services and networks. With the exception of the user side, the ranking of digital pollution of the other incriminated items varies according to the nature of the impact considered, energy consumption, GHG emissions, water consumption...

The challenges of a more responsible digital world

The digital transition is a considerable progress for companies. It contributes to their efficiency, performance and agility. But it also implies an increased use of hardware and software that have a strong impact on the environment. In this context, a responsible digital The challenge is to transform practices and uses, for more frugality.


According to the WWF and Green IT Club's We Green IT study, the success of this business is based on :

  • Reducing the environmental and social footprint of companies through the implementation of a green IT.
  • The use of digital resources for the environment, with an IT for green approach.
  • Responsible design of digital goods and services.


Among the various measures to be taken, extending the lifespan of equipment and software licenses is certainly one of the most effective levers to fight against digital pollution. Reuse and the circular economy would save 810,000 tons of GHG and 6 billion liters of water.


To act on the user environment, it is important to implement a Software Asset Management strategy and to integrate the Softcorner marketplace, leader on the used software license market. An audit of your software assets and an analysis of your users' needs will allow you to identify the software licenses you use, to establish a set of specifications for your needs and the functional scope to be covered according to the services and projects. By doing so, you will be able to decommission unnecessary licenses, free up digital resources and target your needs in terms ofpurchase of used software licenses on premise (bringing your fleet into compliance, client workstation equipment, etc.). This strategy will have an impact on extending the life of software licenses and consequently the hardware configurations used.

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