"Technology and sustainability are not necessarily opposed. We found a way." — Ines Leonarduzzi
[Interview translated from the french article published in Sommets du Digital magazine here.
After a few years spent in large companies (LVMH, Chanel, Air France, ...), Inès Leonarduzzi decided to change the way to work for the planet. In August 2017, she founded Digital for the planet, an NGO promoting digital ecology and sustainable IT innovation around the world.
Digital ecology is an area of ecology that is still under-appreciated whose impacts are underestimated. Inès tells us about this new problem, before joining us at the Digital Summits on February 4, 5 and 6, 2019.
The digital that is often presented as the solution to answer the ecological stakes - in particular with the AI which allows a better resources management - would it actually be an ecological catastrophe?
Digital is not that much an ecological disaster, its energetic impact is. Digital technology now gathers between 16 and 20% of global electricity production, and that figure is growing at around 10% per year.
This allocated electricity, daily and continuously, comes mainly from fossil fuels, such as coal, gas or nuclear power. I am convinced that digital, and in particular the artificial intelligence or the disintermediation by technologies like blockchain, can do a lot for democracy, equality and justice. But it can also be pernicious, if the source is not clean, it biases the dynamics of well-founded. The challenge is not to decry the digital. On the contrary, it is to initiate its future.
Which part can be limited? We think of spams, unused datas collected by companies, etc. And what solutions are being provided to meet digital pollution challenges?
In order to progress, we must first identify the different sources of digital pollution in companies, they are diverse. We realized projects that we named "LDCC" (Low Digital Carbon Company) where we managed, with the help of the teams, to reduce significantly the electricity consumption with some efforts regarding daily digital practices (sending attachments, requests, storage, etc.). Again, to combine durability and comfort at work, it's not necessarily about doing less but doing better.
Plus, we regularly publish infographics where we identify good digital practices citizen everyday.
To end, we are currently developing the first vocal machine learning solution powered by clean energies entirely dedicated to digital ecology. We are working with France, Japan and the United States on this huge project. Some of the greatest experts in artificial intelligence have joined us. There will be the open source citizen version, then the enterprise version and the territory version that will follow. During this fall, we are starting pilots on cities and businesses.
Progress measurement and the constant duplication of public data are also pain points that we closely follow. We work with responsible blockchain solutions in France, able to "tokenize citizens efforts in order to value them without dispersing the data and therefore over-consume. It is fascinating !
Do the companies you meet show a sincere sensitivity to digital ecology?
It is difficult to judge the sincerity of a person,it is harder when it comes to a whole company! We are not into baseless accusations. We are not religious, more pragmatists whose objective is progress. We accompany clients for whom digital ecology is a real subject. Others surely may see a little more opportunity for communication, and we do not mind, as long as progress is visible in their company. What we do feel, nevertheless, is how much employees appropriate the subject. We feel that in the current digital cacophony, what we are developing represents a source of refreshment and meaning for many.
Today, what does it mean to be an entrepreneur in the field of ecology and the social?
Social entrepreneurship has exploded with the digital hyper-democratization. The same can be said for ecology. We have never been more sensitive to ecology than since digital exists. There are several reasons for this : the horizontality of the data (although it is becoming less and less true, for example, in the United States) and the rise of free expression.
Digital and social entrepreneurship are therefore interdependent. Putting people at the heart of a country's economic project is the future. And that has never been done since the beginning of the industrial era. The human being is not made to serve a system, a company. But the opposite is true. Social entrepreneurship is part of the paradigm shift and models evolution. Ecology goes hand in hand. I envision ecology as a branch of humanism. We can not stand for the planet and love war, we cannot desire a sustainable world but be in favor of "many poor and few rich". Slowly, we tend to new aspirations. Full of technology, the human being is overpowering but strangely, he is the only specie that destroy its own ecosystem and others’. The point is that all economists agree that the world has enough resources to contain all the ills afflicting the Earth (famine, resources issues, wars, poverty, education ...). So what is the purpose of progress if we do not progress?
Cash question - cash answer: Is the departure of Nicolas Hulot a sign of the impossibility of solving ecological stakes?
No. On the contrary, his departure has galvanized public opinion and has more than ever woken up the subject. His surprise resignation, announced this way, deliberate or not — like a human sacrifice on the altar of despair — is a brilliant strategy. Ecology did suffocate and Nicolas Hulot resignation bought time to the ecology matter on the political and economic agenda.
Question cash - answer cash: To fight for the digital ecology, is not this a fight lost in advance? On the one hand, companies are pushed to develop their digital activity, and, on the other hand, ecology is not yet considered by the majority.
Any fight is supposed to be lost in advance, right? Otherwise it does not require a struggle. I would say that it is a complex equation, indeed, because it has several ‘x factors’. That said, digital development and ecology are not necessarily antithetical. What you need to look at is value chains, where the most sensitive nodes reside. The answer is far from being binary, it will be more, I think, a clever mix of altruism, economic innovation and citizen awakening. The citizen has a huge role to play here. But I grant you that in this journey, you have to cultivate a taste for effort and difficulty. Defending a cause is a high level sport. It takes the intellect to choose the right fights, the physical form because we sleep little and the mind because the opponent is plural.
The last word: why come to the Digital Summits?
Digital has exacerbated the need for humans to create meeting points. It is important to offer appointments where innovators reflect on today's issues.
Digital ecology is a new concept that I have been developing for a little over a year with my team and an international pool of researchers. This ranges from daily digital practices to the development of new circular digital business models that we propose to governments, via digital geopolitics. According to our study conducted with the French agency Occurrence, 77% of French people do not know what digital pollution is. It is important to be present at such a meeting to discuss and discuss with other experts. Thank you for inviting us!