US passport in front of globe

Beyond the Document: Sustainability in Citizen Identification With Digital ID Systems — Part 1

Smaller is Better. The Impact of Digital ID Systems on Climate Change

As the disruptive forces of climate change become clearer, it becomes more urgent to minimize the effects of industrialization on weather patterns, temperature change and worldwide pollution. Every step we take towards long-term sustainability and meeting the targets of recent COP conventions, improves our chances of avoiding climate catastrophe.

Digital identity systems are an important tool in the quest to achieve this critical goal. Citizen identity is an integral part of modern-day life, used by millions of people every day to perform billions of transactions. At such scale, even the smallest climate change improvements can have vast impact. By replacing traditional, carbon-producing ID products and procedures with sustainable electronic systems and documents, ID systems can streamline the issuance and operation of citizen identity to eliminate millions of kilograms of CO² emissions per year.

Cutting the Footwork to Reduce the Carbon Footprint

The positive impact of digital ID systems begins at the start of the identity journey. Traditionally, an application for an identity document would involve a trip to a government office to enroll with biometrics and personal details. Often, a second journey to collect the identity documents would be required once they are prepared.

CO2250 g per km150 g per km50 g per km0 g per km250 g per km150 g per km50 g per km0 g per kmVisiting a Public AdministrationCO2Using a Digitizing ID Process OnlinePetrol CarLocal BusTaxiApplication UploadDigital ID Online DeliveryOffice Visit vs a digitized issuance process – average CO² production

In most cases, the citizen will travel to these appointments by car, bus, taxi, or train, with each producing CO² emissions at varying rates per kilometer. With the average gas-powered car producing 174 grams of CO² per passenger km and the average bus at 102 grams, it is easy to see how even short journeys can rapidly add up to the creation of many kilograms of unwanted CO². In less industrialized nations, where distances to documentation centers are often much farther, CO² production could measure in the hundreds of thousands of grams per case.

When we consider how these individual statistics are multiplied across nations and throughout the year, it is obvious how ID systems which permit ID applications or renewals online, could be a game changer in sustainability — with the potential to eliminate millions of office visits and millions of kilograms of CO² each year. Additionally, zero office visits create the added benefits of speed and convenience — saving citizens hours of unproductive travel time and eliminating the need to apply for documents during limited office hours.

Digital ID Systems Mean More Efficient Public Administrations

The sustainable benefits of digital ID systems extend further than the travel activities of each citizen. They reach directly into public administrations. Fewer customer visits permit smaller offices, with reduced energy demand for lighting, heating, or cooling. Less foot traffic also removes the need for many office workers to remain on site. Remote and work-from-home scheduling can save staff travel time and cut the CO² emissions their daily commutes create.

Home Delivery Is Cleaner and Greener

With a fully digitized ID system there is no need for the citizen to make an office visit to collect finished identity documents in-person. Issued IDs can be delivered online or via certified mail with secure authentication. In industrialized nations, average delivery by mail creates 20 grams of CO², and electronic downloads and emails produce 1 to 4 grams per delivery. Compared to the emissions created with a physical office visit, carbon production caused by a more digitized process and home delivery would typically be less than 1%.

Sustainable Along the Entire ID Journey

Digital ID systems reduce CO² at every stage of the document issuance journey. From application to preparation and through to final delivery, digital ID systems reduce the impact of citizen ID on the environment.

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 organisation. Before joining HID’s office in the UK, Basingstoke, she was located in Hong Kong where she worked as a Product Marketing Manager.