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Beyond the Document: Sustainability in Citizen Identification With Digital ID Systems — Part 2

Digital ID Systems Offer Sustainable Proof of Who You Are

In part 1 of this short series of articles investigating the environmental benefits of advances in digital ID systems, we discussed how the process of digitizing the issuance of identity documents offers the potential of reducing CO² emissions by millions of kilograms per year. However, the positive effects can reach much further than the passport or licensing office. They could shrink the production of greenhouse gases and reduce the waste of natural resources across large areas of the business landscape.

A Case Study in Inefficiency

Every day, millions of people use IDs to prove who they are. Total transactions can be measured in the billions, and they each create a carbon footprint.

Consider a simple transaction, such as opening a new bank account. Traditionally, this would require the customer to travel to a local bank branch or perhaps a regional office. Identity documents would be necessary for the citizen to prove who they are. Numerous paper copies would be made. Records would be filed, often in purpose-built rooms. The customer may also need to make more than one office visit to finalize the deal, with each trip possibly taking half a day or more.

Now consider that this type of transaction is repeated across the globe tens of thousands of times a day. Every instance requires a local office, burns fossil fuel, consumes natural resources, and requires space to store hard copies. It is a case study in inefficiency, and this is only for new bank accounts. Millions of similar transactions are conducted daily to settle tax affairs, secure finance, sign legal documents, obtain travel permits, or secure a place to live. Every transaction creates greenhouse gases and mountains of paper waste.

CO 2 250 g per km 150 g per km 50 g per km 0 g per km 250 g per km 150 g per km 50 g per km 0 g per km Visiting a Public Administration CO 2 Using a Digitizing ID Process Online Petrol Car Local Bus Taxi Application Upload Digital ID Online Delivery Office Visit vs a digitized issuance process – average CO² production

When Less Is Best

Digital ID systems enable citizens to prove who they are remotely, conducting business without travelling to a specific location. There is no need to exchange paper documents, or store hard copies. The result is a dramatic reduction in emissions and use of natural resources. A typical two-way car journey of five km to visit an office would  create 1740  grams of CO². In contrast, one online upload would create 1 – 4 grams, less than 0.23% of the travel total and before adding the environmental cost of paper copies.

Additionally, because a digitized system eliminates most site visits, there is less need for large offices, or perhaps no need for offices at all. Downsizing to smaller premises or eliminating them completely, (moving staff to remote or work-from-home scheduling), would save businesses money, but more importantly, it would reduce energy consumption for office lighting, heating, and cooling. Further CO² reductions would be gained from the elimination of staff commuter journeys.

Digitized ID Systems Do More

If we are to limit the effects of climate change, every effort must be made to reduce emissions and cut demands on natural resources, no matter how small each improvement is. Transitioning from traditional identity systems to digital systems does more than streamline the production and operation of government-issued documents. It allows the customers of millions of businesses to prove who they are more easily and with less impact to our planet.

Discover more about sustainable digital ID systems and other citizen identity solutions >>

Natascha Trivisas is the Director of Marketing Communications at HID’s Citizen Identity (CID) Business Area. In her role Natascha owns the marketing strategy and the overall operations of CID's marketing activities, making sure that customer pain points are addressed throughout the organization. Before joining HID's office in the UK, Basingstoke, she was located in Hong Kong where she worked as a Product Marketing Manager.