Towards a Sustainable Digitalization: From Concept to Action

International Symposium in cooperation with the Institute for Ecological Economy Research and Technische Universität Berlin - May 6th, 2021

About the International Symposium

How can digitalization be shaped in a way that nurtures common goods and respects planetary boundaries? In order to address this question, representatives from civil society organizations and science, as well as policy-makers came together at the International Symposium “European approaches towards a Sustainable Digitalization” on May 6th, 2021. The event was hosted by the Technical University Berlin (TU Berlin), the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF), the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) and the Leuphana University Lüneburg.

Professor Tilman Santarius, researcher at TU Berlin and ECDF, Daniel Lang, researcher at the Leuphana University Lüneburg as well as Friederike Rohde, research associate at IÖW, opened the event by emphasizing the importance of a specifically European approach in order to achieve sustainable Digitalization: “We hope this symposium will push the debate, lift ambition and turn into ideas for collaboration across national borders. We believe this is essential in order to achieve a deep sustainability transition”, explains Santarius during the opening panel. During three parallel workshops, participants were able to dive deeper into certain questions. Michelle Thorne (Mozilla Foundation), David Jensen (UNEP Digital Transformation Task Force), and Kim van Sparrentak (MEP, Greens/EFA) subsequently discussed the vision for future collaboration among actors within the EU and agreed that academia and the scientific community need to set a focus on engaging with the civil society and actors like the tech industry to achieve real change. Michelle Thorne plead for a holistic approach when it comes to the usage of digital tools: “The environmental impact of certain tools is not yet part of the equation, this needs to change. Carbon Accounting is central for sustainability”. All panelists agreed, there needs to be a shift towards the consequences for sustainability and society when it comes to digital services and more sustainable business models need to become more attractive. A common assessment framework on an EU level is necessary, in order to achieve sustainability on several levels.  


The Opening Panel introduced the issue and the scope of the Symposium and three parallel breakout groups discussed the European approach for a sustainable digitalization from different perspectives:

  • Workshop I: A three-level approach for a sustainable digital transformation

    For this workshop we invited political actors to discuss with us necessary political and administrative framework conditions at different levels. What enablers do we need at a social, organizational, and individual level? What consequences derive from our findings? What is needed to promote individuals, organizations and society for design of appropriate framework conditions for the 21st century?

  • Workshop II: Forging a European interdisciplinary science network on digitalization and sustainability

    This track introduced the thematic approach of the European dialogue project “Digitalization for Sustainability - Science in Dialogue”, and offered discussions with participants on mutual findings and blind spots on the road towards a deep sustainability transition. Moreover, the ongoing political processes at EU and global level were reflected upon.

  • Workshop III: The ‚Bits & Bäume Movement’ goes Europe

    The third session aimed at discussing ideas and prospects for collaborative action of civil society and science to call for a European policy for sustainable digitalization. What can we learn from the German ‘Bits & Bäume Movement’? How can a comprehensive agenda for sustainable digitalization encouraged by European civil society organizations look like? What could be joint activities?

  • Closing Panel: From concept to action: How can elements of a sustainable digitalization be implemented?

    In the closing panel discussion, next concrete initiatives, collaborations and key levers on the way to implementation were discussed. Furthermore, it was discussed to what extent the Digital Services Act/EU Council Decision in their current forms are suitable for pushing forward a sustainable digitalization across europe.

Find more informations here.


Einstein Center Digital Future/ TU Berlin, Department for Socio-Ecological Transformation and Sustainable Digitalization;
Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW);
Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute for Sustainable Development and Learning


Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the funding program “Junior research groups in Social-ecological research” (SÖF) and the Robert Bosch Foundation