Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing our planet today. This document aims to outline the ongoing work and the various actions that Government and industry players can jointly undertake to tackle the environmental issue. The Secure Identity Alliance (SIA) is working to help governments reach their targets in terms of environmental impact. There is a long transition process to gradually reduce the impact of identity documents.
We first need to consider the whole impact of identity documents, looking at both direct and indirect impact, as explained in the graph below from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
- Scope 1: All direct Emissions from the activities of an organization or under their control. Including fuel combustion on site such as gas boilers, fleet vehicles, etc.
- Scope 2: Indirect Emissions generated by the production of purchased electricity, heating, and cooling.
- Scope 3: All other indirect Emissions from activities of the organization, occurring from sources that they do not own or control, e.g., business travel, suppliers, transportation, etc.
There are many actions available to SIA members to reduce the impact of identity documents and the vast majority of our members are already taking such actions. Some of these actions are:
- Applying eco-design principles at the design stage of their products and services
- Reducing the energy consumption of their factories
- Using renewable and/or green energies
- Optimizing the manufacturing process to reduce the waste
- Recycling the waste
- Carbon offsetting through dedicated programs.
Many of today’s identity documents are made of plastic (in particular polycarbonate), paper, inks, and electronic components. Paper mills, chemical and plastics industries are essentially only possible with carbon-based feedstock, as most of their products cannot do without carbon.
To mitigate climate change and achieve our global ambition for greenhouse gas emission reductions, the utilization of fossil carbon as raw material for chemicals and materials shall be gradually stopped and replaced with renewable carbon.
Addressing the carbon feedstock is essential to tackle Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in the producing industries, where it is responsible for the majority of the overall carbon footprint. Replacing embedded fossil carbon is by far the most impactful measure in this regard.
To decouple chemistry from fossil carbon, other sources of carbon must be found that do not lead to additional CO2 emissions. Research & Development in biosciences and chemistry are opening the door to such renewable sources of carbon, which will provide alternative solutions for a more sustainable chemicals and materials sector.
Bio-based and circular feedstock from mechanical or chemical are gaining strong importance as a transition towards more sustainable materials.
For identity documents, bio-based and recycled polycarbonate are being tested but there is quite a lot of work needed to qualify the material and see how durable and fraud resistant it is when comparing with standard polycarbonate. In the meantime, mass balance approach may be considered to ensure the transition toward the more sustainable material.
For paper, relevant sustainable forest management certifications are a good approach to responsible forest management. Reducing the number of visa page, as documents are less often stamped, is a quick way to reduce the carbon footprint.
Governments should also review their policy over expired documents. Some passport offices keep the document once a new document is handed over to the citizens, probably to be securely shredded either on or off site. The recycling of expired cards and passports should be further explored.
The SIA urges Governments to support the actions of its members on reducing the environmental impact by paying closer attention to the available solutions when developing new identity programs and drafting tenders.
The SIA and its members will continue to investigate and report on this topic in the future.
The Secure Identity Alliance (SIA) is an expert and globally recognised not-for-profit organisation. We bring together public, private and non-government organisations to foster international collaboration, help shape policy, provide technical guidance and share best practice in the implementation of identity programmes. Underpinning our work is the belief that unlocking the full power of identity is critical to enable people, economy and society to thrive.