The subject of data frugality: An ESG commitment
Today, IT accounts for 3.8% of global CO2 emissions. What solutions could be envisaged to reduce the information overload and our carbon footprint?
Thank God it’s 5G!
In 2021 summer, we should see a global event that will bring together the world of sport and, more generally, a substantial portion of the world’s population. That event is the Tokyo Olympic Games. It would provide us with an opportunity to discover 5G in the stadia, which will for example enable everyone to put themselves anywhere in a stadium to view a broadcast. The number of possible ways this technology can be used is constantly growing, today enabling us to have video on demand, real-time access to multimedia information, wherever we are, via our smartphone, television or PC.
All these possible uses have a substantial impact on the phenomenal quantity of data we can use, store and exchange every day.
In our professions, you only have to look at the considerable volume of reports generated by regulations such as MiFID2 with years of records having to be preserved, or the substantial amount of data needed to control risks or know our customers, to understand that this volume is constantly growing, even though regulations such asGeneral Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) require us to archive more or to destroy data after a certain period of time.
ESG* & IT consumption, a reality
We are all concerned by the need to protect our planet and our scarce resources, and all responsible companies like Societe Generale group are massively committed to “green” finance, promoting sustainable development and fighting climate change.
Yet today we know that IT accounts for 3.8% of global CO2 emissions (up to 10% according to the highest estimates)1, that manufacturing smartphones and batteries uses scarce resources and that every email we send increases our carbon footprint.
Data frugality is the way forward
So what solutions could be envisaged to reduce the information overload and our carbon footprint?
One interesting innovation already consists in better knowing our own energy consumption, I could for example mention the CarbonMail project2 that has led to the creation of a Plug-In in Outlook that allows you to measure the environmental impact of every email you send, given that an executive spends an average of 5 hours a day on their emails.
Regarding data and Big Data, data frugality (Datensparsamkeit in German) is a principle that, for the last decade, has been shared by scientists like Martin Fowler3 and Erik Dörnenburg4. The principle is simple: it suggests that you don’t record and save everything, you don’t create multiple copies of identical objects but, on the contrary, you identify the minimum data capacity you genuinely need to carry out your activity and meet the requirements of your clients and commercial partners.
We all need to ask ourselves whether we need to keep specific data, but also where the most appropriate place to keep it is.
This transition cannot be brutal and requires an in-depth thought process regarding our current and future practices, as well as the identification of useful sources of data for our activity (market data, production data). It also consists in seeking to make comprehensive use of every bit of information recorded, as a single item of data can have a number of uses.
Beyond the environmental appeal of such an approach (less data means less storage, and therefore less energy to create and archive this data), there are also economic benefits, as most Cloud server and software licence models (for example) are based on Pay-per-Use5. This means reducing your data’s software or hosting costs, or accessing useful information via a link or an Application Programming Interface (API), and entrusting a trusted third party with protecting it.
Within the SG Group, we have thus cut our IT infrastructures’ carbon footprint by 20% between 2014 and 2020 by pooling our data via a shared catalogue (liquidity management, third-party management, finance, credit risk) and the widespread use of APIs (approximately 5,000 APIs in wholesale banking). Our Cloud strategy is to migrate 80% of our data production to the Cloud.
Thanks to our outsourcing solutionsand the extensive catalogue of APIs available, SGSS is taking the necessary steps towards the frugal management of data we collect on behalf of our clients and are entrusted to us. This therefore naturally also involves seeking to optimise energy consumption, for example the memory space needed to use and archive these data. In compliance with the GDPR principles (such as “privacy by design”), we have informed our clientele of the nature of data we keep and, more recently, of their hosting on the Cloud and their accessibility via APIs(Open Architecture).
So let’s immediately begin preparing frugal solutions, optimising the use of our resources. It is also the Group’s purpose, its raison d’être6.
* ESG: Environmental, Social & Governance.
1 ADEME (January 2020)
2 The CarbonMail project by JC Bories (Group Finance Division) was awarded the SG group’s 2019 Environmental Efficiency Award.
3 See www.martinFowler.com and ThoughtWorkers network.
4 Visit erik.doernenburg.com
5 Visit Steve Beards on the FLEXERA blog www.flexera.com.
6 “Building together, with our clients, a better and sustainable future through responsible and innovative financial solutions”.
After the development of a start-up and European research programs related to e-Learning, Yvan Mirochnikoff joined Societe Generale as a senior consultant, then coordinated the internet development and supervised SwiftNet and other projects for international retail banks. He holds many positions (senior auditor, COO, IT head of Architecture, Infrastructures & Security) for the retail banking and financial services worldwide. Yvan currently supervises digital transformation of Securities Services (reshaping customer experience and transforming operating models, through various innovative initiatives). Yvan Mirochnikoff, is Aeronautics engineer, holds a Master in Business Administration from the University Paris I – Sorbonne (IAE), and a Master in Multimedia and Telecommunications. Since 2000, he is associated Professor at Paris-East University, where he manages the Master in Digital Economy, after having created its E-Commerce filiere.