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Tech giants foster green software engineering movement

The Green Software Foundation, which includes Accenture and Microsoft as members, will create an ecosystem of people, standards, tools and practices to develop green software.

A new nonprofit organization seeks to make sustainability as much a priority for software development teams as performance, security, cost and accessibility.

The Green Software Foundation, which debuted in late May, is backed by tech giants including Accenture, GitHub, Microsoft and Thoughtworks, as well as the Linux Foundation and the Joint Development Foundation. In addition to reducing the carbon emissions of software, the Green Software Foundation looks to promote industry standards for green software engineering.

"Stakeholders are increasingly demanding more environmental and socially responsible behavior, which provides organizations with an opportunity to demonstrate that they are purposeful about sustainability, hold strong ethical standards and operate responsibly in everything they do," said Sanjay Podder, technology sustainability innovation lead at Accenture and board member of the Green Software Foundation.

"Energy is one of the most significant drivers of carbon emissions for software applications -- particularly for machine learning applications," Podder said.

The Green Software Foundation's strategy

In March 2020, the International Telecommunication Union, Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative, GSMA and the Science Based Targets Initiative set a goal for the information and communications technology sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% before 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement.

To help reach that goal, the Green Software Foundation has stated the following plans:

Establish green software standards

The foundation will develop a standard method to calculate and report the carbon intensities of software applications. The method will measure the carbon emissions produced by an application per unit of work. The measurement will be standardized to provide consistency throughout the industry.

In addition, the foundation will issue green software engineering standards, patterns and practices across various computing disciplines and technology domains, according to Accenture. The foundation will encourage software development teams to adopt the standards. It will also look to influence government policy related to green software emissions.

Energy is one of the most significant drivers of carbon emissions for software applications -- particularly for machine learning applications.
Sanjay PodderTechnology sustainability innovation lead, Accenture

Accelerate innovation

The foundation will support open source and open-data projects that promote green software engineering practices. As part of this work, the foundation will collaborate with its nonprofit partners and academic organizations to advance green software research.

Drive awareness and grow advocacy

Through ambassador programs, training and certification, and events, the foundation will urge the widespread adoption of green software applications.

The Green Software Foundation will establish four internal groups: standards, innovation, community and trademark. These groups are currently defining their respective charters and deliverables.

A role for channel partners

Membership recruitment, including channel partners, ranks high on the Green Software Foundation's agenda.

"We are working with the other founding members to recruit additional members," Podder said. "We hope that all organizations with a shared commitment to sustainability and an interest in green software development principles will join the foundation to help grow the field of green software engineering, contribute to standards for the industry and work together to reduce the carbon emissions of software."

Alongside founding members Accenture, GitHub, Microsoft and Thoughtworks, Goldman Sachs and nonprofits Leaders for Climate Action, Watt Time and The Green Web Foundation have joined the effort.

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