Strategy #3: Purchased ICT services (cloud-based, internet, e-mail, or telecommunications)


The days of governments owning all the equipment needed to satisfy their ICT needs are over. Governments now buy much of their ICT capacity as services not as hardware. E-mail is often a cloud-based service purchased from a vendor. Telephone service is now typically provided via the internet (voice over internet protocol or VOIP) or through cellular services. The recommendations in this section can also be applied to VOIP telephone services.

In looking across the whole environmental life cycle of ICT services, the biggest GHG hotspot is energy used in provision of the services, so that’s where governments should focus their attention. Energy use and GHG emissions of a server center are directly related to:

  • Efficiency of the server center itself, mostly for temperature control
  • Efficiency of the ICT hardware used in the center, and,
  • Energy sources powering the data centers. So centers powered by coal will have a different GHG footprint than those using solar photovoltaic arrays.


In this context, the procurement goal is to select services which are provided with the lowest GHG footprint measured in GHG emissions per unit of data. The most effective approach to reduce the GHGs from these services is to use vendor questionnaires, standards, and certifications centered on energy use and electricity sources during the RFP process.

There are a variety of ICT standards and metrics that organizations can request in RFPs to help identify and compare GHG emissions associated with procured ICT services. These range broadly in the scope of considerations, from full environmental life cycle standards that document “cradle to grave” impacts to pledges that companies will take energy-saving steps in ICT management. We provide a brief description of these approaches here.

Telecom services, while generally not the focus of this ICT procurement guidance, do fit into this discussion of ICT services. Telecom services that use data centers to transmit communications, such as webinar and video-conference services, and VOIP, are similar to other ICT services. The energy and GHG metrics below will be relevant for both ICT and data telecom. Procurement of traditional copper wire “land line” systems wouldn’t fit into this approach as well.


Organizations can request a variety of information from in an ICT service request for proposals (RFPs). These options are grouped into three approaches in order of priority for reduction carbon footprint of procured services: service-based, operations efficiency-based, and facility/corporate certifications-based. Each approach includes specific data metrics for vendors to provide, listed in order of preference.For each metric, the vendor should list the methodology, standard, and/or program they followed.

Purchasers can maximize the GHG reduction/environmental performance by allocating a greater proportion of scoring points to or requiring any of the suggested metrics. However, because many of these metrics are new, we suggest giving points for both the provision of the data requested, and for relative performance (that is, vendor or services that have higher efficiency or lower GHG per unit should receive some preference in the evaluation process), rather than making them a requirement. Each of the recommended metrics and standards has the advantage of capturing overall energy use in some way. Many of them will capture relative GHG emissions as well. Government purchasers requesting any of these metrics shouldn’t have to evaluate specific hardware at a vendor’s data centers because the impact of the hardware selection will be incorporated in the larger metric.


Service-based Approach: Request vendors provide:

  1. Full GHG Life Cycle Assessment of ICT service provided (CO2e per service provided), or
  2. GHG Intensity of ICT Operations by service provided (CO2e per unit of service, such as Terabytes of data processed), or
  3. Energy Intensity of ICT Operations by service provided (kWh per unit of service) and identify energy source and/or operations’ electricity grid

Operations Efficiency-based Approach: Request vendors provide the following for the data center(s) that provide the services procured by the organization

  1. Carbon Usage Effectiveness of data center operations, or
  2. Power Usage Effectiveness of data center operations

Certification-based Approach: Request vendors identify whether they have:

  1. ENERGY STAR certification for the data center providing the ICT service procured by the State
  2. Taken ENERGY STAR’s Low Carbon ICT Campaign pledge.
  3. LEEDv4 certification for newly constructed data centers or LEEDv4 O+M certification for already built, whole building data centers.


If vendors cannot respond with any of the preferred metrics above, the next step would be to ask them to report on any of the EPA’s recommended steps they may have implemented at their data center facilities.