Insights

Having Trouble Implementing Sustainability Objectives? Let's Discuss the Role of Technology

Transferring workloads from local data centers to the cloud can notably decrease carbon emissions, positioning the cloud as a greener alternative. Yet, to fully harness the cloud's carbon-cutting potential, one must adopt a cloud-native strategy, not just transfer existing workloads.

 

This article delves into how organizations can diminish their carbon footprint through cloud migration and cloud-native architectures.

 

Cloud facilities are more energy-efficient than traditional enterprise data centers. Google's data centers, for instance, achieved a PUE of 1.10 in 2023, meaning minimal additional power is used beyond the primary computing workload. Etsy's transition to Google Cloud, reducing their carbon footprint by 20%, exemplifies this efficiency.

 

In the cloud, resource utilization is optimized. The 'load factor', a key metric of server capacity usage, is higher in cloud environments due to effective capacity management. This leads to lower carbon emissions because fully utilized servers are more energy-efficient than underutilized ones. Furthermore, using fewer servers cuts down on 'embodied carbon', the emissions from manufacturing the servers.

 

Cloud systems offer greater elasticity compared to traditional data centers. This flexibility allows for swift adjustments in resource allocation, ensuring efficient use and reducing idle time, thus lowering emissions.

 

Another strategy to lower emissions is spatial or temporal shifting of workloads to regions or times with less carbon-intensive energy sources. This requires balancing the carbon footprint with other operational needs. The complexity of accurately measuring emissions related to data transfers adds to this challenge.

 

Organizations need to measure and estimate their carbon emissions to strategize effectively. Tools like Strand's Cloud Carbon Footprint tool provide estimates across various cloud services, offering a comprehensive view of emissions, including scope 2 and scope 3 emissions.

 

However, the Jevons Paradox warns that efficiency improvements can inadvertently lead to increased resource usage. Therefore, maintaining a clear view of carbon emissions is crucial. An engineering mindset focused on maximizing efficiency while minimizing emissions is key. By integrating technological advancements with responsible practices and policies, we can aim for true sustainability, avoiding the pitfalls of increased efficiency.

 

Bridging the Gap in Sustainability Execution with Technology:

 

  • Simplify complexity and assign clear responsibility.
  • Establish metrics, set agreed-upon goals, and monitor advancements.
  • Coordinate dynamic and efficient action plans.
  • Implement decisions based on robust data analysis.
  • Strengthen the sustainability resilience within the organization.

 

Moreover, in June 2023, the International Sustainability Standards Board introduced sustainability reporting standards, endorsed by the G7, G20, and Central Banks from over 40 jurisdictions. These standards are poised to become the foundation for global regulatory evolution, mandating that organizations disclose financial information linked to sustainability, including climate impact and initiatives.

 

Organizations will need to report on aspects such as:

 

  • ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) metrics, goals, and evaluation of ESG-related risks and opportunities.
  • Specific objectives and plans for climate action, including governance and strategies for transition.
  • Detailed reporting of Scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon emissions.

 

Collaborating for Technology-Driven Sustainability

 

Organizations must move beyond mere sustainability rhetoric. Aligning sustainability with technology is crucial, yet the variation in strategies, priorities, and operational approaches complicates this intersection.

 

Sustainability divisions gain immensely from collaborating with a partner that not only possesses profound technological insights but also the ability to assist non-technical stakeholders in leveraging this expertise. While technology teams recognize the urgency of sustainable actions, they seek reliable advice that resonates with their unique challenges and circumstances.

 

By synchronizing your sustainability and technology departments, envisioning an ideal future, and defining clear steps forward, a skilled technology partner can equip you with the necessary insight and assurance to transition from sustainability goals to tangible actions.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of Strand.

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