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The reference document for the Telecommunications and ICT services sector


The sector 

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) is developing a sectoral reference document on best environmental management practice for the telecommunications and ICT services sector.

This activity is part of the JRC work on identification of best environmental management practice and development of EMAS Sectoral Reference Documents for different sectors.

The telecommunications and ICT services sector, with the provision of both wired and wireless telecommunications services (and the underlying hardware infrastructure and systems) has experienced steadfast growth over the past decades. In spite of Europe's already high level of equipment and coverage in terms of telecommunication systems and services over the past few decades, uninterrupted progress and the constant provision of renewed and ever-faster services (most recently cloud computing, Big Data, the "internet of things"…) have maintained the industry on a steady growth path. This has also spurred the development of ever more power- and resource-hungry systems with an ever-growing environmental footprint.

The virtual, "software" nature of end-use telecommunication services tends to conceal the real-world, "hardware" nature of telecom systems and their environmental impact which are thoroughly investigated in this work. This includes, of course, in-use energy and emissions (from server rooms, base station sites, …) but also embodied resource use (energy, materials) and broader environmental impacts (landscape impact of increased geographic coverage, noise and electromagnetic field, emissions…). Within the whole value chain of the telecommunications and ICT services industry, all areas with major environmental impacts are investigated, although overlaps are avoided with sectors already covered by other EMAS Sectoral Reference Documents such as the one related to the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Manufacturing sector.  

The document identifies the main environmental issues and describe best environmental practices that actors across the value chain (wired and wireless telecommunication service providers and utilities, systems operators, end users …) can implement to reduce their environmental impact. It presents BEMPs, environmental performance indicators and potential benchmarks of excellence for the most relevant processes/activities of the sector and their main direct and indirect environmental aspects.

The document also looks at the opportunities offered by the ICT sector to improve the environmental performance of other sectors/activities.

Work plan

An external contractor (Ernst & Young France) was hired to produce a background report as a basis for the development of the sectoral reference document. In the meantime, the JRC established a Technical Working Group (TWG) comprising experts in environment and telecommunications/ICT services to gather and review information and to validate the best environmental management practices, environmental performance indicators and benchmarks of excellence identified. The kick-off meeting of the TWG took place on 16-17 November 2015. Based on the comments and inputs provided by the TWG at the kick-off meeting and in cooperation with the group, Ernst & Young has produced the background report.

The background report was the basis for discussion at a second and final meeting of the TWG which was held in Ispra (Italy) on 17-18 November 2016.

Based on the outcome of this second TWG meeting and on the background report produced by Ernst & Young, the JRC has been producing the final best practice report and will finalise it, in cooperation with the TWG, in the second half of 2017.

The final best practice report will be published on this website and form the basis for the development of the EMAS Sectoral Reference Document.

Project Team

The following people are part of the JRC EMAS SRD team:

  • Paolo Canfora
  • Marco Dri
  • Ioannis Antonopoulos
  • Pierre Gaudillat

If you have any question on the work carried out in this area or if you would like to contribute to the identification of best environmental management practices in one of the areas under study, please feel free to contact us. The best way to do so is sending an e-mail to