Publication - Advice and guidance

Scotland's Digital Future: Scottish Public Sector Green ICT Strategy

How Scottish public sector organisations can reduce carbon emissions; plan for carbon reduction; and meet the Scottish Government's environmental targets.

40 page PDF

654.8 kB

40 page PDF

654.8 kB

Scotland's Digital Future: Scottish Public Sector Green ICT Strategy
ICT lifecycle

40 page PDF

654.8 kB

ICT lifecycle

In order to reduce pollution and carbon emissions, the whole lifecycle of ICT equipment must be considered.

Figure 1: ICT Lifecycle

Figure 1: ICT Lifecycle


Procurement principles

  • Consider extending the life of existing systems
  • Go for Services not Assets: Cloud services, virtualise, consolidate
  • Packaging reduction, re-use, repair and re-cycling methods

Organisations must encourage and incentivise green practices from suppliers by considering a high weighting for green credentials in the awarding of contracts that appropriately encompass green solutions.

In order to achieve this, and ensure alignment with the assessment and prioritisation tools of The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act, 2014, ICT procurement processes will need to consider the following (the maturity levels and considerations are aligned directly to the Green ICT Maturity Model in Annex A and the ICT maturity Workbook in Annex B):

Maturity Level Considerations
  • work pro-actively with suppliers to notify them of your organisations Green ICT commitment;
  • begin a consultation process to seek alignment of your organisations and suppliers green strategies;
  • begin a risk and opportunity exercise to identify suppliers with positive and negative impacts on sustainability (see also level 4).
  • examine if existing equipment can be postponed and existing equipment "sweated" beyond the end of life point, rather than purchasing at set refresh points (whilst taking into consideration that newer equipment can be more energy efficient so a balanced approach will need to be adopted to factor the age of equipment into whole-of-life costs);
  • examine if upgrades can be done via specific components;
  • embed Government Buying Standards, Energy Star and EPEAT standards; into all ICT procurement decisions;
  • strike a balance between the need for capital funding models and "pay as you consume" models to ensure that the relevant procurement models are adopted to meet the ICT needs of the organisation;
  • take into account the major elements of the life-cycle analysis and whilst striking a balance between sustainability and reasonable costs.
  • routinely use sustainability tests in all procurement frameworks;
  • stipulate that suppliers provide energy usage and environmental information in tenders;
  • stipulate a set minimum amount of re-cycled material.
  • work pro-actively with suppliers to formally communicating your organisations Green ICT policies;
  • set targets in contracts to measure the outcomes of sustainable benefits;
  • record benefit sharing, to publicise, advertise and promote continual improvement sustainable/Green ICT outcomes.
  • establish a risk assessment process to formally manage and monitor risks throughout the whole of the contract life cycle.
  • ensure that purchasing requirements give consideration to existing application portfolios and data libraries/schemas (e.g. in the Government Apps store) before commissioning new software solutions.
  • work pro-actively with suppliers to target suppliers with positive impacts on sustainability (identified in level 1) to continually improve sustainability performance, and allow for the identification of opportunities to enhance sustainable benefits;
  • incorporate suppliers with negative impacts on sustainability (identified in level 1) into the audit process as part of risk management.
  • ensure that purchasing requirements first consider a move towards open source software development prior to commissioning new software.
  • ensure improvements stemming from supplier engagement programmes are publicised (e.g. awards or press releases) and shared with other organisations;
  • identify opportunities for further collaboration and innovation with suppliers;
  • constantly apply sustainability to ICT policies;
  • formally recognise that procurement is a key strategic element in delivering the organisation's sustainable/Green ICT objectives.

ICT Operations

ICT has a key role to play in reducing the impacts of carbon emissions on wider business operations and by using ICT solutions the Scottish public sector can reduce their energy usage and work more effectively.

ICT Operations principles

  • Minimise power consumption
  • Follow data centre standards for efficient operations to help reduce power consumption
  • Develop a road map for the transition from hosting own data to hosting in cloud based services to further reduce power consumption
  • Reduce paper consumption
  • Embed green behaviours in operational practices and services

Examples of best practice where technology can be used to enable change in Public Sector operations using ICT include:

Data centres and cloud computing

Research indicates that data centre rationalisation, leading to colocation and virtualisation and ultimately to hosting data, where appropriate, in cloud based services offers the biggest win by far in greening ICT operations (e.g. consolidation can result in a reduction in a 25%-30% running costs; virtualisation can result in a 20% reduction in running costs, see the case studies in Annex F, and Data Centre Optimisation best practice in Annex D).

Through the analysis of the use of data centres throughout the public sector in Scotland it has been identified that most do not proactively measure their energy consumption or understand the total cost of running their data hosting facilities. ICT industry financial analysis indicates that power consumption can account for a third of the cost of running such a facility.

The Scottish public sector data centre and hosting strategy sets direction and provides guidance to support organisations in moving to an approach based on a shift to service consumption and cloud provision, and away from an individual silo approach by using aggregated demand and economies of scale.

The strategy sets out how the public sector will adopt the following approaches for achieving significant efficiency and energy savings: cloud computing, virtualisation and colocation.

Using ICT to reduce consumables

Greater use of mobile devices make it easier to use electronic documents without printing them. These reduce running costs and environmental impact, by providing electronic methods of working such as collaborative tools which will minimise the need for multiple copies and paper consumption. Electronic archiving of documents needs less space than paper ones which benefits organisations through reduced building capacity, controlled access to information and speedier response to requests for information.

End user devices and peripherals

End user devices and peripherals include, amongst others, desktop PCs and laptops, mobile and smart phones, tablets, printers, scanners, copiers and fax machines.

Organisations should carefully consider whole-of-life environmental cost of devices before replacing them. Extending the service life of existing devices may be more favourable than purchasing new devices; for example desktop PCs reaching the end of their normal service life may be re-configured as thin clients or utilised in low use environments (although modern equipment could be more energy efficient than existing equipment so a balanced approach will need to be adopted to assess the full implications and associated costs). Device rationalisation and optimisation policies should be adopted. Opportunities will be sought to reduce the device to staff ratio, subject to satisfying business needs.

Many organisations have already successfully implemented software that shuts down PCs when they are not in use, this software has proved extremely effective at reducing the overall amount of energy used to run a PC. All organisations should enforce green settings on printers, copiers and multi-function devices. Managed printing services can also reduce unnecessary printing and should be appropriately adopted more widely across organisations. According to Zero Waste Scotland, this is probably where most carbon savings can be made so all organisations in the Scottish public sector should focus on this (see best practice examples and case studies for more information).

Networks, including SWAN (Scottish Wide Area Network)

SWAN is a "network of networks" serving voice and data requirements for the Scottish public sector and joining up disparate silo networks. It will be an enabling layer for the delivery of public services in Scotland and also allow sharing and collaborative working and procurement across the public sector.

More than 4,600 sites will be connected to the initial network including schools, hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacists and local council offices. Key benefits include reduced costs, improved service and the ability to share data across government departments, fostering co-operative working. Migrating onto this common network infrastructure will release many environmental savings, including those from removal of equipment supporting duplicated circuits and surplus bandwidth.

In order to achieve this, and ensure alignment with the assessment and prioritisation tools of The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act, 2014, ICT procurement processes will need to consider the following (the maturity levels and considerations are aligned directly to the Green ICT maturity model in Annex A and the ICT maturity workbook in Annex B):

Maturity Level



  • establish baselines against which to monitor improvements in Green ICT performance.
  • develop a strategy to reduce data capacity/retention limits (e.g. archiving/deletion of emails, use of shared spaces such as Knowledge Hub etc.);
  • develop a strategy to promote digital by default to increase take-up of on-line services by customers.


  • reduce the number of data centres through consolidation and rationalisation;
  • promote new developments in ICT to encourage flexible and remote working amongst staff (e.g. the cloud as way of rationalising estates to reduce running costs and environmental impacts associated with office space/commutes to work);
  • migrate to Public Services Network, Scottish Wide Area Network or similar to reduce the need for circuit and equipment duplication;
  • move towards IaaS/ PaaS etc.


  • reduce the number of data centres to work towards virtualisation as the norm;
  • routinely monitor and report environmental and socio-economic outcomes of all ICT operations
  • ensure contract sustainability governance is in place (e.g. contract steering group to monitor progress and performance against key procurement milestones).


  • host data in cloud based service, where appropriate;
  • align Green ICT strategy with all related business strands (travel, estates, HR etc.);
  • produce statements highlighting the benefits from implementing sustainable procurement strategies, and share these across the organisation and relevant stakeholders;
  • compare Green ICT strategy of your organisation with those of comparable organisations.
  • improve solution design to enhance good sustainability outcomes, and consulting all stakeholders (including suppliers) during development.


  • externally scrutinise and aligning Green ICT strategy with the strategies of similar organisations to allow for standardised assessment and peer review;
  • formally benchmark the Green ICT strategy against other organisations, independently audited and reported internally and externally.

Disposal or Recycle

Disposal principles

  • Re-pair - if broken fix it
  • Re-use, Re-furbish for other purposes
  • Re-cycle
  • Clean and re-sell/donate - charitable and registered voluntary and community groups
  • Dispose in line with regulations.

Once ICT equipment or services are considered surplus to requirements, or in need of replacement, adoption of a clear "waste hierarchy" will ensure that it is possible to:

  • Reuse (by far the best environmental option) or refurbish surplus equipment to avoid unnecessary procurement of new equipment within the public sector;
  • recycle and reuse components of ICT equipment;
  • where practical and feasible, donate surplus equipment to benefit charitable or similar initiatives in Scotland or beyond, subject to security and full traceability requirements being met (this may be influenced by the approach taken to "sweating" equipment beyond it end-of-life point as discussed in procurement, as equipment may ultimately be too old to be of any further use);
  • equipment capable of holding information should be wiped clean of any data prior to being re-used by another party or sent for destruction (this may require specialist companies to be engaged in order to carry this task out, which in turn may result in additional costs, which will need to be factored into end-of-life costs);
  • many charities receiving surplus equipment for donation will carry out PAT testing but it is advisable to confirm this in advance to ensure that the equipment is safe.

If equipment is genuinely waste, new mandatory policy and standards for disposal of ICT equipment will ensure that government is environmentally and socially responsible. Government will strive to eliminate waste sent to landfill and seek the use of "energy from waste" schemes for disposal of any residual materials from unwanted ICT equipment.

Organisations should develop a detailed re-use and recycling policy and procedure for the disposal of ICT equipment ensuring that the required clearances are obtained from appropriate authority for recycling.

Scottish public sector organisations must ensure that all ICT equipment is recycled safely and securely at the end of the life of equipment. This includes all devices, such as:

laptops desktops
monitor keyboards
mouse printers including Multi-Function Devices
mobile phones desktop phones including batteries etc

These must be recycled subject to environmental legislation. These must be recycled subject to WEEE regulations . The Scottish Landfill Tax which comes into force in April 2015, and also with Scotland's Zero Waste Plan. The issue of disposal also has interdependencies with Government Buying Standards, so all initiatives should be considered together.

In order to achieve this, and ensure alignment with the assessment and prioritisation tools of The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act, 2014, ICT procurement processes will need to consider the following (the maturity levels and considerations are aligned directly to the Green ICT Maturity Model in Annex A):

Maturity Level Considerations
  • Repair before disposal. Examine if equipment can be repaired and reused before disposal (i.e. "sweated" beyond the end of life point) whilst acknowledging that a balance has to be struck between green issues an fair and reasonable costs.
  • Re-use and refurbish. Examine if end-of-life equipment can be reused to meet other needs within the organisation (e.g. reuse components from obsolete equipment, reuse PC's as thin clients or in low use environments etc.).
  • Re-cycle in line with regulations. If the equipment is genuinely waste, develop a mandatory policy for the disposal of obsolete ICT equipment (e.g. building into contracts terms and condition for suppliers to take back and recycle the equipment, following WEEE regulations etc.).
  • Donate. If end-of-life equipment cannot be repurposed within the organisation, examine if it can be donated (e.g. to community and charitable organisations) subject to satisfactory PAT testing and wiping of existing data.
  • Donate. If donating to other organisations, proactively working with the organisation to ensure that they are environmentally responsible and transparent in their own ICT operations and disposal policies.