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Sustainability is most often associated with the environment and the underlying idea behind it that humans must interact with the environment in a way that ensures there will be enough resources left for future generations. In the context of digital transformation, sustainability refers to developing and deploying technology in a secure, transparent, responsible and robust way, according to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. From a European perspective, digital technologies are crucial for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050, the goal set in the European Green Deal. Technology can improve energy and resource efficiency, facilitate the circular economy, lead to a better allocation of resources, reduce emissions, pollution, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. At the same time, the ICT sector must ensure the environmentally sound technological design and deployment.


Digital technologies have disruptive and transformative potential, but they can also become enablers of our sustainable future. From blockchain, AI, and IoT to data processing and RPA, digital technologies present opportunities to reduce waste, cut carbon emissions, and be more mindful overall of the environment, if designed and deployed appropriately. With this in mind, the paradigm of sustainable technology delivers the promise of innovation that considers natural resources and fosters economic and social development. The goal of these technologies is to drastically reduce environmental and ecological risks and to create a sustainable product. 


Sustainability in technology has already made its way into public use and innovation. Common examples of sustainable technology and innovations include: public and electric transport, LED light technology, solar power, carbon capture and storage technologies, smart waste management, just to name a few.


To realise the full potential of sustainable development, simply putting the necessary technological infrastructure in place is not enough, it should be complemented by legal and institutional frameworks, but decision makers also need to identify innovative approaches to promote technologies for sustainable development.


Irina Buzu
Irina Buzu

Irina is a techlaw and intellectual property attorney, currently pursuing her PhD research in AI regulation with a focus on the legal status and accountability of AI. She is an emerging technologies fellow at Europuls, as well as a Algorithmic decision making cycle co-lead at the Institute for Internet and the Just Society. Most recently, she became part of the AI literacy expert group of the Council of Europe and a member of the European AI Alliance.