Emerging Trends of Sustainability Reporting in the ICT Industry: Insights from Discriminative Topic Mining (Papers Track)

Lin Shi (Stanford University); Nhi Truong Vu (Stanford University)

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Abstract

The Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) industry has a considerable climate change impact and accounts for approximately 3 percent of global carbon emissions. Despite the increasing availability of sustainability reports provided by ICT companies, we still lack a systematic understanding of what has been disclosed at an industry level. In this paper, we make the first major effort to use modern unsupervised learning methods to investigate the sustainability reporting themes and trends of the ICT industry over the past two decades. We build a cross-sector dataset containing 22,534 environmental reports from 1999 to 2019, of which 2,187 are ICT specific. We then apply CatE, a text embedding based topic modeling method, to mine specific keywords that ICT companies use to report on climate change and energy. As a result, we identify (1) important shifts in ICT companies' climate change narratives from physical metrics towards climate-related disasters, (2) key organizations with large influence on ICT companies, and (3) ICT companies' increasing focus on data center and server energy efficiency.

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