Sustainability framework for data centre operators
As the backbone of today’s digital world, data centres are responsible for up to 2% of carbon emissions globally — equivalent to that of the airline industry. To contend with an increase in digital bandwidth and IT-sector electricity demand, the industry demands a holistic and standardised approach to environmental sustainability.
To alleviate this issue, Schneider Electric has released a framework for environmentally sustainable data centres, proposing five areas of environmental impact inclusive of key metrics. The company says leveraging the framework can help operators mitigate the impact data centres have on the environment.
The Executive VP of Schneider’s Secure Power Division, Pankaj Sharma, said this is a growing area of interest for operators.
“Environmental sustainability reporting is a growing focus for many data centre operators. Yet, the industry lacks a standardised approach for implementing, measuring and reporting on environmental impact. We have developed a holistic framework with standardised metrics to guide operators and the industry at large. Our intention with this framework is to improve benchmarking and progress toward environmental sustainability to protect natural resources for future generations," he said.
According to Rob Brothers, Program VP for the Datacentre Support Services Program at market intelligence firm IDC, the industry needs to focus on the longer term.
“The data centre industry has made significant progress in increasing energy efficiency; however, as digital demands increase they must remain committed to driving long-term broader sustainability initiatives.
“You can’t have an impact on what you don’t measure; therefore, companies must establish clear and consistent metrics that account for not only efficient technology, but also the consumption (or possible destruction) of natural resources such as water, land and biodiversity,” Brothers said.
Mounting pressures from investors, regulators, shareholders, customers and employees also drive the need for improved environmental-impact reporting in data centre operations. However, many data centre operators lack sustainability expertise and face a daunting task of determining what metrics to track and strategies to implement.
Schneider Electric’s framework was developed by its Energy Management Research Centre leveraging expertise from ESG experts, sustainability consultants, data centre scientists and data centre solution architects to take the guesswork out of measurement and reporting.
Data centre sustainability metrics drive sustainability strategy
Schneider says tracking and reporting on standardised sustainability metrics helps drive internal team alignment improvements and increases transparency for external stakeholders, including customers and regulators. The company believes that implementing the framework also allows data centre operators to:
- remove the difficulty of selecting impactful metrics for tracking
- improve communication and alignment with internal teams on sustainability objectives
- act on the data to improve operations
- enable regular and consistent reporting for external stakeholders (investors, regulators, potential employees, etc)
- standardise benchmarking across industry peers around the globe.
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