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Photo taken from outer space of part of the earth lit by artificial lighting.

Digital, AI-dependent and data-driven technologies have the potential to make a profound impact on human health, not only by providing tools for healthcare delivery, clinical support and biomedical research, but also by making systems more efficient and environmentally sustainable. At the same time, the pace of AI development is staggering and the databases supporting such technologies have important environmental impacts: their heavy energy requirements contribute to high carbon dioxide emissions, and the reliance on minerals to develop their technological components often implies unsustainable and/or toxic mineral extraction and e-waste disposal. While improvements in energy efficiency and the move to renewable energy are underway, the pace of innovation could lead to a situation in which renewable energy sources are over-burdened, bringing to increases in non-renewable energy consumption. With concerns about climate change at their highest, it is timely and urgent to consider the environmental footprint of these technologies through responsible innovation processes. This research strand aims at exploring the ethical aspects and implications in relation to the environmental sustainability of digital, data and AI driven technologies.

  • How does our knowledge and available data on environmental impacts of AI and data technology affect our ethical framing of the issue?
  • Given that mineral extraction and e-waste practices often affect most disadvantaged populations, how to tackle issues of environmental justice in relation to issues of data justice?
  • How has the policy narrative around digital sustainability changed over time?
  • What are the public perceptions and understanding of the environmental sustainability of AI?
  • How can the principles of Responsible Innovation be brought into industry to foster greater commitment to sustainability?

To address these questions (and generate new ones) we engage in several activities:

  • we conduct empirical and theoretical research
  • we bring together academics and stakeholders that are interested in networks
  • we organise events to raise awareness among academics and other stakeholders 

Past Activities

Digital pollution: environmental sustainability of the digital revolution

  • One-day workshop (Oxford University) bringing together academics across many disciplines to discuss issues, form collaborations for further research. May 13th 2020. View the workshop output.
  • Participants: Federica Lucivero, Gabrielle Samuel, Gordon Blair, Sarah Darby, Tina Fawcett, Mike Hazas, Marina Jirotka, Mike Parker, Carolyn Ten Holter, Helena Webb, Hang Yuan

For more information about this research cluster and relevant activities please contact Dr Federica Lucivero  at

Infographic exploring environmental impacts of AI and digital health.


Key Publications

  • Lucivero, F. (2019). Big Data, Big Waste? A Reflection on the Environmental Sustainability of Big Data Initiatives. Science and Engineering Ethics.
  • Lucivero, F., Samuel, G. Blair, G., Darby, S. J., Fawcett, T., Hazas, M., Ten Holter, C., Jirotka, M, Parker, M., Webb, H., Yuan, H. Data-driven sustainability - an interdisciplinary perspective on governing the environmental impacts of a data-driven society. Big Data & Society, 2020. Submitted. Available from:
  • Samuel G, Lucivero F. Responsible Open Science: Moving towards an Ethics of Environmental Sustainability. Publications. 2020; 8(4):54.
  • Samuel, G.; Lucivero, F.; Somavilla, L. The Environmental Sustainability of Digital Technologies: Stakeholder Practices and Perspectives. Sustainability 2022, 14, 3791.