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Keeping a lower profile: How firms can reduce their digital carbon footprints

journal contribution
posted on 05.08.2022, 10:43 authored by Tom JacksonTom Jackson, Ian HodgkinsonIan Hodgkinson

Purpose: In the pursuit of net-zero, the decarbonization activities of organizations is a critical feature of any sustainability strategy. Government policy and recent technological innovations do not address the digital carbon footprint of organizations, however. The article presents the concept of single-use dark data and how knowledge reuse by organizations is a means to digital decarbonization.

Design/methodology/approach: Businesses in all sectors must contribute to reducing digital carbon emissions globally and the article is the first to examine ‘how’ from a knowledge (re)use perspective. Drawing on insights from the knowledge creation process, the article presents a set of pathways to greater knowledge reuse for the reduction of organizations’ digital carbon footprint.

Findings: Businesses continually collect, process and store knowledge, but generally fail to reuse these knowledge assets—referred to as dark data. Consequently, this dark data has a huge impact on energy use and global emissions. Our model is the first to show explicit pathways that businesses can follow to sustainable knowledge practices.

Originality: Two critical questions are facing businesses: how can decarbonization be achieved? And can it be achieved at low-cost? Awareness of the damaging impact digitalisation may be having on the environment is in its infancy, yet knowledge reuse is a proactive and cost-effective route to reduce carbon emissions, which is explored in the article.

Practical implications: If businesses are to be proactive in their collective pursuit of net-zero then it becomes paramount that reducing the digital carbon footprint becomes a key sustainability target. The article presents how this might be accomplished, offering practical and actionable guidance to businesses for digital decarbonization.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business

Published in

Journal of Business Strategy




AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Journal of Business Strategy and the definitive published version is available at [insert DOI]. This author accepted manuscript is deposited under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC) licence. This means that anyone may distribute, adapt, and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes, subject to full attribution. If you wish to use this manuscript for commercial purposes, please contact

Acceptance date







Prof Ian Hodgkinson. Deposit date: 5 August 2022