Policy & Best Practices

Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES)

“Digitalization – the use and adoption of digital technologies – is driving massive economic, social and environmental changes. The future of humanity and the health of planet Earth depend to a large extent on how we undergo this digital transformation. We have an opportunity to drive this transformation in a manner that helps build a healthier, safer, cleaner and more equitable future, rather than one of exacerbated environmental degradation, inequality and social division. However, achieving global sustainability is not an inevitable or an obvious outcome of digitalization. Indeed, digital technologies, through their energy and material requirements and influence on consumer demands, have accelerated the exponential rise of the human impact on the natural environment that now threatens the resilience of our ecological systems, alongside worsening societal inequalities and escalating social injustice. Digitalization has the potential to help transform society and business models to a more sustainable and equitable world but only if there is a conscious and deliberate effort to steer it in that direction.” – from the CODES Action Plan Executive Summary.

The Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) is an international multi-stakeholder alliance created in March 2021 in response to the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap on Digital Cooperation. CODES’ purpose is to advance digital sustainability – understood as the design, development, deployment and regulation of digital technologies to accelerate environmentally and socially sustainable development while mitigating risks and unintended consequences.

The founding co-champions of CODES include the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Science Council, the German Environment Agency, the Kenya Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Future Earth, and Sustainability in the Digital Age. The co-champions act as the Secretariat for CODES in close coordination and cooperation with the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Technology. During the Stockholm+50 international environmental meeting, the Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) launched the “Action Plan for a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age.”

Key Insights

The CODES Action Plan identifies three shifts needed to harness digital transformation as a positive force towards sustainability:

1. Enable Alignment: Strong, global coalitions of sustainability and digital-tech experts will help shape common visions, standards and objectives to prioritize the investments and resources needed to systemically align digital transformation with our sustainable development agenda.

Graphic illustrating Shift 1 of the CODES Action Plan. All details in text.

2. Mitigate Negative Impact: Commitment to sustainable digitalization that mitigates the negative environmental and social impacts of digital technologies. Key impacts include greenhouse gas emissions, metals and e-waste, misinformation, and the gap between those who have access to digital technology and those who do not.

Graphic illustrating Shift 2 of the CODES Action Plan. All details in text.

3. Accelerate Innovation: Mobilize and catalyze funding and resources to advance digital innovation that accelerates environmental and social sustainability for the “whole-of-society.” Examples include digital twins of the planet, digital product passports, sustainable digital e-commerce, SMART climate resilient agriculture and digitally enabled off-grid solutions. 

Graphic illustrating Shift 3 of the CODES Action Plan. All details in text.

Within each shift, the Action Plan identifies six strategic priorities that must be addressed during the 2022-2025 timeline as well as nine global Impact Initiatives that interested stakeholders can lead, contribute to or engage in to catalyze systemic transformations.

Graphic illustrating the CODES Three Shifts and 18 Strategic Priorities to Achieve a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age. Info in image written in accompanying text.

The Action Plan is based on a series of open dialogues and collective intelligence processes – spearheaded by the CODES secretariat – that engaged over 1000 stakeholders.

For information on how to contribute, please visit: https://www.codes.global/.

Watch this video to learn more about CODES:

CODES Co-Champions

UNEP logo
UNDP logo
International Science Council logo
Umweltbundesamt logo
Republic of Kenya logo
Future Earth logo
Sustainability in the Digital Age logo