Reference Guide for sustainable IT – What’s in and How to?


Denis Didier is Project Manager Sustainable IT Repository at Institut du Numérique Responsable. In this article, he discusses a reference guide for sustainable IT.

ISIT, the Institute for Sustainable IT, has been established in France, Belgium, and Switzerland, with over 100 members. ISIT is diverse and open.

Dimensions of sustainable IT

When we talk about sustainable IT, we need to cover three dimensions.

  • Environment
  • People – reducing the gap between people and IT
  • Prosperity – economic output, ensuring what we produce is fair for everybody.

History of the handbook

The story of the reference guide (handbook) started in March 2020 with a collaboration of more than 100 contributors. The first version was released for internal consumption in May 2021. We garnered feedback from Beta tests by using it in some companies and improved the guide. We went live with the guide in October 2021. It is a continuous improvement process, so we will train more people, update the material and add standards and labels to make it more efficient.

The handbook is not only for web service. We aim to work to cover all IT systems, from Frameworks, APIs, business stacks, infrastructure, and data. We must refine IoT, Big Data, Dev Ops, and Artificial Intelligence.

Goals of the handbook

  • Provide a reference for addressing Digital Responsibility in IT projects in all phases.
  • Outline recommendations applicable in each phase of the project
  • Cover the three dimensions of sustainable IT – People, Planet and Prosperity
  • Enable adaptation to a variety of operational contexts
  • Be independent of rapidly changing technological choices
  • Reinforce the elements provided by other reference systems

Structure of the handbook

The book is organized into different parts. The first is a family. A family is a step in the progress of a project. We define eight families (project steps). These families are associated with 57 recommendations. A recommendation is a global objective to match and comply with sustainable IT. It is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals stated by United Nations. We cover 11 of these goals out of the 17 goals. Recommendations are to be used with specific criteria. There are 491 criteria. This is where the handbook gets its name from. Out of these, 41 criteria are mandatory.

Overview of the handbook – HB491

The handbook is public. There’s a website that is available in French and English. The English part is a translation and is not a localization. So, the laws and regulations are from the French perspective. Laws and regulations of other countries are not covered in the handbook.

The user must select the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals the company has subscribed to. These are linked to the recommendations.

The next is the project steps or families. These are –

  • Strategy – how can we define the context of a project? What are the values we want to share? How can we get organized to run the project? This is the strategy and an early part of our project.
  • Specifications – Reading and writing user stories and translating business needs into technical details.
  • UI / UX – How can we define some interface and user journey to make it efficient for our users? Content – What are we delivering to our users? What’s seen, and how can we be sure every content is relevant for the user?
  • Development – Architecture, Front-end, Back-end
  • Hosting – Deploying the application and hosting the service.

Based on this, recommendations are shared with the user. This helps the user to be more efficient and sustainable. Each recommendation will then have criteria and advice. There are some tips to ensure sustainable IT.

The handbook provides metrics that show adherence or compliance.


The handbook is large. It has 491 criteria. To implement it in your organization, select what is important to you. Select the SDGs, recommendations, and important criteria for your organization. Customize the handbook for your organization. Adapt the organization’s handbook to each project. Select the criteria relevant to the project. Get relevant checklists. Process the criteria used in project management. Share the criteria and checklists with all team members to ensure that you are compliant. This ensures global compliance with the handbook.

Denis Didier
CT0 - R&D manager. Manager, specialised in high level requirement production environment that uses systems, networks, technical software and people management for reliable, powerful and opened IT. Actually working on Sustainable Software Engineering, to provide method, tools, metrics and training to make IT development process more environment friendly. For any company with this concern. Last missions. · E-commerce Web site, IT team management (Toulouse - FR / · R&D management (Toulouse - FR / AUSY) · VOIP/asterisk PBX integration in existing call center architecture in US (whitePJ / Contactual). Specialties: VOIP architecture design, Migration from regular telephony to VOIP, IT accessibility helpers, e-commerce

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