The Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) launched an action plan that outlines three systemic shifts needed to leverage the power of digitalization to help create more sustainable and equitable societies and business models. It includes a set of nine “Impact Initiatives” designed to “spark immediate collective action and multi-stakeholder collaboration.”

The three systemic shifts identified in the ‘Action Plan for a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age’ are the result of a 12-month consultation and co-creation process involving CODES stakeholders. The Action Plan prescribes six strategic priorities within each shift:

  • Shift 1: Align vision value objectives, enabling such alignment through: 1) connecting transformations; 2) digital competencies; 3) science and systems thinking; 4) digital multilateralism; 5) pioneering coalitions; and 6) norms and standards;
  • Shift 2: Sustainable digitalization, mitigating negative impacts in the areas of: 1) energy and emissions; 2) material base; 3) consumption; 4) misinformation; 5) the digital divide; and 6) rights violations; and
  • Shift 3: Digitalization for sustainability, accelerating innovation by supporting: 1) a planetary digital twin; 2) a sustainable circular economy; 3) sustainable consumption; 4) knowledge commons; 5) governance breakthroughs; and 6) a green, digital, and just transition.

To catalyze these shifts, CODES stakeholders set out nine global Impact Initiatives that require “collective action and multi-stakeholder collaboration.” For Shift 1, they recommend: a World Commission on Sustainability in the Digital Age that would undertake new research to provide science-driven recommendations on accelerating sustainability in the digital age; a Clearing House for Digital Sustainability Standards, to serve as a platform to co-define key standards for digital sustainability; and education for digital sustainable development, to develop needs-based, localized, and contextualized literacy and education programmes on digital sustainability.

For Shift 2, stakeholders call for: harmonization of digital companies’ greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories; a sustainable procurement and green digital infrastructure pledge, to enable standardization and harmonization of sustainable procurement principles and green digital infrastructure across governments and corporations; and a digital product passport for circularity, to track a product’s climate, environmental, and social impacts throughout the value chain.

For Shift 3, the Action Plan proposes: digital sustainability innovation hubs and accelerators; using data and assessments as digital public goods for sustainability; and decentralized financing of sustainable solutions, including, crowdfunding, payment for ecosystem services, sustainability filters, and algorithms.

CODES will serve as a “docking station” for the nine Impact Initiatives, facilitating coordination, expertise sharing, and resource mobilization. CODES’ efforts are part of the implementation process for the Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and will feed into the Summit of the Future and the Global Digital Compact, both slated for 2023.

CODES is a global engagement platform for governments, businesses, and civil society established under the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. It aims to guide “a digital transformation of the economy and society that enables a sustainable and equitable future for all.” It is co-championed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the German Environment Agency, the Kenyan Environment Ministry, the International Science Council, Future Earth, and Sustainability in the Digital Age, in coordination with the UN Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Technology.

The Action Plan was formally launched on 2 June 2022, during Stockholm+50. [UNEP Press Release]