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Data Centers Must Demonstrate a Commitment to Sustainability

Sustainability has become such a hot topic for all companies across all industries that the question moving forward is to how to best address this crucial issue.

“Sustainability has become an important business priority,” said global colocation data center giant Equinix. “Companies must now demonstrate a commitment to sustainability to ensure business growth and maintain competitive advantage.”

The International Institute for Management Development (IMD) said the directive emerging from last year’s annual United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) was crystal clear.

“The message from COP26 rang loud and clear for global corporations: align your business strategy to sustainability targets and reap monetary rewards. Drag your feet and you’ll lose out,” wrote Knut Haanaes for IMD.

Why Sustainability is Crucial for Corporate Strategy

A World Economic Forum article in June said that sustainability has become increasingly critical for organizations to remain relevant and competitive today with 90 percent of executives polled believing sustainability is important.

“Much like digital transformation, driving sustainability requires organizations to transform every division of their business,” wrote Talal Rafi, global consultant on innovation, entrepreneurship and gender equality. “Today, sustainability should be an integral part of developing corporate strategy.”

That same article also found that:

  • Only 60 percent of organizations have sustainability strategies
  • Embedding sustainability in strategy is essential to meet evolving consumer demand, investor pressure, and regulatory requirements
  • Sustainability has proven to reduce costs, boosts profits, and attract top talent

“Sustainability for organizations plays out across three areas, in the now well-known acronym for Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG),” wrote Rafi.

IT Sustainability Has Become a Business Imperative

Equinix’s latest Global Tech Trends Survey of 2,900 IT global tech leaders from the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions found that:

  • 69 percent of tech decision-makers indicate that sustainability is now one of their organization’s most important drivers
  • 65 percent of tech decision-makers say they’ll only work with IT partners who can meet key carbon reduction targets

“Achieving measurable progress on IT sustainability has become a business imperative, and a range of tech solutions, from colocation to edge services, can help,” said Equinix.

Data Center Experts Weigh in on Sustainability

Equinix recently asked data center industry experts to weigh in on sustainability.

“From leveraging AI to measure CO₂ emissions, to choosing the right ecosystem partners, to data center colocation, these experts have valuable insights on how organizations can build a more sustainable IT footprint for the future,” said Equinix.

Here is a highlight of what six of those data center industry experts said about sustainability:

  • Dr. Sally Evans (Global Strategic Advisor in Emergent Technologies and Founder of Aspirational Futures): Measurement is key to moving behind ESG outcomes to true accountability.

“Commitments to reducing CO2 emissions, alongside the reduction of water consumption and waste, is an important step but there can be an intention-action gap where measurement is infrequent, not comprehensive enough or too manual.”

She noted that the Boston Consulting Group found that 86 percent of organizations still record and report on their emissions manually using spreadsheets. Implementing AI-supported tools could help organizations advance their measurement and tracking capabilities by up to 40 percent.

  • Elias Khnaser (Chief of Research at EK Media Group): Felt strongly that organizations need to move their on-premises data centers to colocations facilities.

 

“Organizations must research and select digital ecosystem partners that share their passion and dedication to sustainability and clean energy.”

 

Since the major hyperscale cloud providers all have sustainability goals; partnering with them will naturally contribute to increased sustainability.

 

  • Maribel Lopez (Founder and Principal Analyst at Lopez Research): The strategies she recommends:

o   Organizations can increase efficiency by using elastic cloud services and autoscaling features to minimize unused computer resources

 

o   Organizations can run batch workloads during times when grid carbon intensity is lower and look for opportunities to place workloads in areas where the providers use renewable energy

 

She is also bullish on the future of liquid cooling (“because water and other liquids are far more efficient at transferring heat than air”) and the sustainability benefits of edge computing.

 

  • Leanne Starace (SVP Global Solutions Architecture and Engineering at Equinix): She feels that greener building design is essential to any organization’s sustainability efforts.

“Before choosing to work with a colocation provider or any other partner, businesses should evaluate the partner’s buildings based on power usage effectiveness (PUE). Partners that have been proactive about adopting sustainability innovations, including fuel cells, airflow management and high-density liquid cooling, will likely be able to demonstrate how those innovations directly contribute to a lower PUE.”

 

  • Keith Townsend (CEO and Founder of The CTO Advisor): He thinks customers should first focus on measuring key performance indicators (KPI) that matter in their sustainability programs.

“Once the KPI is well understood, customers should adopt tooling that enables the automation of tracking sustainability efforts.”

 

  • Milind Wagle (Chief Information Officer at Equinix): Stresses that IT plays a crucial role in delivering environmental initiatives. Three of Equinix’s sustainability strategies are:

o   Investing in modern technologies since legacy infrastructure and equipment consume more energy.

 

o   Better asset management including lifecycle tracking of infrastructure assets (hardware and software) from the cradle to the grave with a focus on optimization, recycling, and reuse.

 

o   Using data to drive accountability for sustainability via dashboards and reports that support actionable intelligence.

At Data Center Systems (DCS) sustainability is part of our core corporate social responsibility that includes:

  • Sustainable Procurement
  • Ethics
  • Labor and Human Rights
  • Environment

Contact DCS today to find out more about how we are able to provide reliable, scalable, and high-performance connectivity to some of the largest data centers in the world while maintaining a 2022 Silver Sustainability Rating from EcoVadis.