Smartphones supporting sustainable lifestyles as mobile makes its mark on climate change

  • 84% of smartphone users, that also drive a car, use satnav apps to plan routes and avoid traffic
  • 68% would use a smartphone to control heating or cooling at home
  • Half would replace payment using debit, credit card or cash with smartphone
  • 40% would consider using a self-driving car in future

Smartphones are playing a key role in addressing the challenge of climate change, according to GeSI Mobile Carbon Impact, a new report released today by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), authored by the Carbon Trust.

The Carbon Trust assessed of a number of carbon saving mechanisms across ten categories. This involved examining a variety of uses of mobile communications technology, from the use of smartphones to machine-to-machine (M2M) connections.

An international study of 4,000 smartphone users across the USA, UK, Spain, South Korea and Mexico was also conducted for the report and found that many people are already using their smartphone in a way that helps cut their personal carbon emissions. Overall, respondents expressed high levels of willingness to adopt new behaviours that could result in even more substantial future reductions.

The research revealed some of the most common uses of mobile which are currently contributing to the overall carbon abatement impact. 84 percent of smartphone users, that also drive a car, use satnav apps to plan travel routes more efficiently or avoid traffic. 80 percent of respondents use mobile to work or study from home, avoiding the need to travel. Nearly half (49%) of those surveyed stated that they purchase digital instead of physical products, such as newspapers, music and books.

The research also highlighted potential areas for future carbon emissions reduction from transport. More than half of the car drivers surveyed (55%) would consider having a device fitted that would reduce car insurance if they drove in a safer, more environmentally friendly way. Four in ten (40%) would consider using a self-driving car in future. And just under half (48%) would be more likely to use public transport if they had a mobile app to see precisely when the next service would arrive.

There were also indications for how lives might be lived in a more efficient, environmentally friendly way in the near future. 68 percent of smartphone users are willing to use an app to control electrical devices and heating or cooling at home. 63 percent would use mobile to access public services in the future. 49 percent would replace the use of their debit or credit card and cash with their smartphone. And 63 percent would replace a non-emergency visit to the doctor with a video call.

The possibilities for the peer-to-peer and sharing economy were also highlighted in the research. 49 percent would be willing to replace a visit to a hotel with staying in someone’s home. And 50 percent would be willing to use their smartphone to sell, rent or share items that they own, with others.

The report also contained the Carbon Trust’s quantification of the impact mobile communications technology is having today across all of its applications, including machine-to-machine (M2M) connections. This analysis found that the use of mobile technology in just the USA and Europe is enabling a saving of more than 180 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year, an amount greater than the total annual emissions of the Netherlands.

Luis Neves, Chairman of GeSI, said:

“Advances in Mobile Communications over the last few years are helping to transform the world for the better. We are just at the beginning of an accelerating adoption curve, where businesses, governments and society recognise the wealth of possibilities offered by the technology to do things differently. This report shows that Mobile is already making a real difference across the global economy, helping us to shape a more sustainable world.”

Andie Stephens, Senior Consultant at the Carbon Trust, added:

“Mobile is going to have a key role to play in helping to tackle climate change. But the impact the technology is having today is just a fraction of its full potential. Given the urgency of the challenge the world faces then there is a clear case to accelerate the adoption of the various mechanisms through which mobile can help to cut carbon. It should also help promote green growth in the developing world, helping them to leapfrog their way to a more sustainable economy.”

Louise Harry, Head of Safety & Sustainability at EE added:

“As the UK’s largest mobile network operator we do our best to reduce our own environmental impact. But we also recognise that we can help our customers to reduce their own environmental impacts through the use of mobile communications. This analysis by the Carbon Trust, on behalf of GeSI, highlights the power of technology to enable organisations and individuals to take action on climate change today across a range of sectors, as well as the growing role it will play in the future.”

Jim Gowen, Chief Sustainability Officer, Verizon Communications, said:

“No single company, and no single country, can realize the full promise of the mobile innovation era on its own. Just as new devices and readily available applications are the technology platforms of the future, we believe collaboration and openness will be the operating platforms of the future – requiring new kinds of partnerships among all the different players in the ecosystem. Verizon is proud to be a part of GeSI and looks forward to continuing the momentum of enabling the reduction of carbon emissions through mobile technology.”

The report has been funded by GeSI, BT, EE, Telefónica UK (O2) and Vodafone. Technical guidance was also provided by representatives from: Bell Canada, BT, EE, Ericsson, Swisscom, Telefónica UK (O2), Telenor, Verizon and Vodafone.

Read the report and see the infographics in full here




For more information please contact Ainslie MacLeod or Jamie Plotnek at the Carbon Trust press office on +44 (0) 20 7170 7050 or email


About GeSI:

Bringing together over 30 of the major Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies and organisations around the globe, the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) is a leading source of impartial information, resources and best practices for achieving integrated social and environmental sustainability through ICT. For more information, see 


About the Carbon Trust:

The Carbon Trust is an independent company with a mission to accelerate the move to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. The Carbon Trust:

  • advises businesses, governments and the public sector on opportunities in a sustainable, low-carbon world;
  • measures and certifies the environmental footprint of organisations, products and services;
  • helps develop and deploy low-carbon technologies and solutions, from energy efficiency to renewable power.


For more information visit