Sustainable IT: embrace a european vision to make the topic bigger

June, 2024

For sustainable IT to be raised to the highest level as a strategic issue, we need a voice that carries weight at European Union level, and particularly with policy makers. Max Schulze, director of the European think tank Leitmotiv (formerly SDIA), explains how he is working to achieve this while maintaining complete independence.

“I expect that IT community realises that it has the power to change a lot of things”. At GreenTech Forum, Max Schulze, Director of SDIA (Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance), association based in Germany, expects that the IT directors will consider that they have the power to change the way we develop IT, “for example, simply by putting requirements into the purchasing process, a lot of things can change. The IT community can make a lot of positive impact with very little effort, simply by demanding transparency and forcing their suppliers to make the environmental impact assessment.”

For Max Schulze, GreenTech Forum Brussels is a big opportunity for everyone to be united around the same topic and share the different issues. It's also to come closer and work together. It's undoubtedly an opportunity to realise the main issues involved in responsible digital technology and the importance of showing how it can have an impact and why we need to make it a strategic issue.

From SDIA to The Think Tank

For Max Schulze, making sustainable IT a strategic issue necessarily involves political advocacy. "We need to make our voice heard by the EU and get our demands for a more responsible digital future onto the Brussels agenda". This is what SDIA has been doing for several years.”

But the showcase had become too small and not strategic enough. “At SDIA, we started as an association with companies as members. We realised that as long as we were affiliated with companies, we were considered as lobbyists and that’s really important that EU and policy makers understand that we do that for the best of society with climate as a core value.”

“If we remain as an association, we know that we will always be considered as such and not taken seriously by our partners” explains Max Schulze, “Other the last five years, we have found that best way to shape sustainable IT and sustainable digital economy is really through policy and regulation, we want to facilitate that even more by doing that from an independent position without companies involved to what we say”.

“That’s why we need to change the status of SDIA, from an asbl to a think tank” argues Max Schulze, “within the next three months, SDIA will rename itself to Leitmoiv and we aim to be the independent European think tank for a sustainable digital economy.”

“We need to talk to the EU, we need to be seen as an independent actor as much as possible” precises Max Schulze, “the think tank is the only way to do so”. The non-profit association is always very dependent on its members, who can have a form of influence on the way in which the association develops. Because of the way it operates, a think tank is not accountable to its members for the money it spends. This is a way of gaining greater credibility with institutions and avoiding defending the interests of a few companies as opposed to a shared vision of responsible digital technology. It's also a way of finding a format that matches the European dimension of the action.

One independant voice to address policy makers

"The best way to shape Sustainable IT is regulation". For Max Schulze, the challenge is to talk to policy makers. For him, this is the first way to get the EU and businesses moving. To achieve this, Max Schulze is working on a “transparency track”: “ I fundamentally believe that for every IT product that can be rented or used, we need to know what the environmental impact is.

The other challenge for him is to raise public awareness: "we need to create public awareness; policy makers can give priority to an issue that we need and that is of concern to society". The more society feels concerned about the issue of a more responsible digital future, the more attention Max Schulze believes Brussels will pay to the subject. To this end, the head of the think tank is holding a series of conferences to draw attention to the issue. In the future, he hopes to create educational content.

To him, for the moment, “the biggest leverage is in the IT community”: “a lot of developers and CIO are saying we need to be regulated, we need to have this transparency; I’m trying to get those voices to be more public”.

He also sees this advocacy role as an opportunity to speak with a single voice to the EU. “In the EU there are three big forces at the moment: France, Germany and Netherlands” he details, “we need first to align these three countries.” To him, “The cake of sustainable IT is too small, we are slicing it too much, it doesn’t make any sense. What we need to focus on is making the cake bigger, all together.”

Among other things, Max Schulze questions the relevance of having so many movements that question the issues and create a wealth of both research on the subject and ways of advising companies, but which are unable to speak with a single voice at European level.

For this specialist in advocacy, the salvation of sustainable IT will depend in part on the EU's recognition of this strategic issue. To do that, the institution needs a clear message, conveyed by as many people as possible. This is essential work that needs to be done. Will GreenTech Forum Brussels be a new opportunity to help achieve this?


Max Schulze is Director of Leitmotiv Digital (that will replace within three months SDIA - Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance). He is a member of GreenTech Forum Brussels 2024 program committee.

Article written by Rémy Marrone for GreenTech Forum Brussels

GreenTech Forum Brussels is the new Tech and Sustainability event.
Co-organised by the Belgian Institute for Sustainable IT, Numeum and, it will take place the 18 et 19 of June 2024 at La Maison de la Poste in Brussels.
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