Green DiSC: a Digital Sustainability Certification

Green DiSC is a new certification scheme which provides a roadmap for research groups and institutions who want to tackle the environmental impacts of their computing activities.

Subscribe to the Newsletter
GreenDiSC logo

Who’s it for?

Green DiSC can be completed by anyone working in research, across any research domain. There are criteria aimed at research groups and separate criteria for central teams (e.g. a sustainability team or an IT team). 

Ideally, research groups and central teams will work together to complete the process, with the central team addressing common infrastructures and research groups focusing on their activities, but of course, it can also be completed independently (just as a group or just as a central team).

Sign up my group/organisation

How does it work?

Three levels of certifications will be available: Bronze, Silver and Gold. The criteria were selected following some key principles:

  • Evidence-based, to ensure that the criteria included have the maximum impact on research sustainability while favouring engagement with the framework.
  • Open access, so that all scientists can engage with this framework.
  • Iterative, so that the criteria developed evolve as institutions’ policies change and our understanding of environmental impacts progresses.
  • Community-based, to leverage the great resources being designed internally by different institutions.

Progressive launch of Green DiSC

We will onboard teams progressively on a first-come first-served basis in order to enrol as many teams as possible while we build up capacity. But all criteria are open-access, so you can start working on them as soon as you enter the scheme (you'll get the link in the enrolment email), and get the official certification once we get to you! In this first release, groups can complete the Bronze level.

It's important that you enrol your group/institution here, as it tells us how many groups are interested and can accelerate capacity building.

Interested? Here is what to do next:

  1. Sign up to the newsletter to receive occasional updates about Green DiSC.
  2. Register for one of the information webinars: Thursday 18 July 2024 at 3pm BST and Tuesday 17 September 2024 at 10am BST (sign up to the newsletter to receive the meeting link)
  3. Enrol your group and/or institution by using this form.
  4. Have you thought of joining the ECSC community for Environmentally Sustainable Computational Science? You can do that here.

The Green DiSC certification can help any group that uses computation in their research as well as central sustainability teams. For example:

  • A fully “dry lab” or computing research group (e.g. computational biology, astrophysics, statistics, machine learning, engineering, chemistry etc.)
  • An RSE team.
  • A group doing both wet lab and dry lab research.

High-performance computing (HPC) is an essential component of modern research, and it comes with significant, but not always well-understood, environmental impacts. With the urgency of the climate crisis, it is becoming increasingly apparent to scientists using computing that the resulting environmental effects should be taken into account and mitigated where possible. In the UK, UKRI released last year its roadmap for Net-Zero Digital Infrastructure and more recently, major funders and universities joined the Concordat for the Environmental Sustainability of Research and Innovation Practice. It is now key to give research groups and institutions a framework to achieve these ambitions. 

A few figures: the global carbon footprint of data centres is estimated at ~100 MT CO2e per year (mega tonnes of CO2-equivalent), equivalent to the entire US commercial aviation. It is not uncommon to have scientific computations reaching tonnes of CO2e and some Artificial Intelligence models have been shown to pass 500 T CO2e. For context, the IPCC target to keep global warming under 1.5C is around 2 tonnes per year and per person. 

Contrary to wet labs for example, until now computing groups didn’t have a roadmap on how to tackle the environmental impacts of their work. Green DiSC is addressing this!

You’ll be added to our waiting list and we will contact you once we have capacity to include your group. 

Once you’re part of the scheme, it depends slightly on whether you are representing a research group or a central team at your institution.

If you are a research group:

  • You will be given access to your own shared folder, with the criteria and some documentation. It’s a place to upload all your documents. 
  • You will be given access to a closed group on the ESCS Forum to ask questions and connect with other groups taking part.
  • You will have a point of contact for any question you may have. 
  • You will have access to a shared repository where all teams taking part can share resources.

If you are your institution’s coordinator within a central team:

  • You will be given access to the shared folders of all the groups taking part in your institution to help you monitor uptake and progress. 
  • You will be given access to a closed group on the ESCS Forum to ask questions and connect with other institutions taking part.
  • You will have a point of contact for any question you may have.  
  • You will have access to a shared repository where all teams taking part can share resources.

Either way, you will then have several months to make your way through the criteria. Then, comes the time of getting certified!

Each group/institution taking part will be audited by outside auditors to receive the certification. In the limited release phase, this will mostly be achieved through peer audit: each group taking part will commit to audit other groups. Why?

  • Because this is a great opportunity to learn what is being done elsewhere.
  • Because the certification scheme is free to enrol, but not free to run, and community-based auditing is a good way to keep a low barrier to entry.

The audit will involve reviewing the written application for the Bronze criteria, followed by a meeting (online for Bronze) to discuss these and ask for clarification.

Is there a cost to joining?

No, there is no fee to joining the scheme and to get certified, and the criteria themselves are open-access (no paywall!).

Why are there no criteria about sustainability outside of computing?

There are other schemes which do a great job at tackling things like food waste, building’s heating, travel policy etc. With Green DiSC, we decided to focus on computing so that it can be completed alongside one of these schemes if you want to be exhaustive! 

What is the licence on the criteria?

All the material related to Green DiSC is covered by a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Any other questions?

The best place to ask questions about this scheme is the dedicated space on the ESCS community forum, but if you’d rather message privately, you can email us at

The team behind it and credits

Green DiSC has been made possible with support from the Software Sustainability Institute and the University of Cambridge. 

The scheme is managed by Loïc Lannelongue at the University of Cambridge, who also leads the Green Algorithms project, with essential support from Kirsty Pringle, Denis Barclay, Shoaib Sufi and Oscar Seip at the SSI.

Other credits:

  • The logo was designed by Denis Barclay.
  • The name “Green DiSC” for the certification was based on suggestions by Alex Carroll, Santiago Madera and Michael Inouye.