Creating a net zero strategy

From Tech Carbon Impact Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In our latest blog, IT consultant Sean Sadler discusses how companies can create strategies to move towards net zero, meet government targets and attract new employees.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt all over the world, including more extreme temperatures, threats to wildlife, loss of food sources, flooding and lots more besides.

In a recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming. But unless we reduce emissions rapidly, the world is likely to exceed 2°C. By the end of this century, warming could potentially reach 4°C, possibly more.

Stats on pace of climate change

Average global temperatures have risen by more than 1°C since the 1850s. 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 were the hottest years ever recorded. The figures show us that the planet has been warming since the Industrial Revolution.

Sustainability has become an increasingly important element of a company's portfolio. Not only is it becoming mandatory for companies to report on their emissions and start to create strategies to move towards net zero, and hence meet government committed targets, but it is also becoming increasingly important when it comes to doing business and attracting new employees to join your company.

They want to see evidence that you are taking sustainability seriously, and that it's not just a paper exercise that in truth a lot of things are when it comes to being compliant with specific standards. However, whilst it may indeed cause some additional outlay and in some cases will have a major impact, in addition to the obvious benefits to the planet, it will offer a business benefits such as:

  • The opportunity to rethink your business model (which could well have been overdue anyway)
  • The opportunity to save costs over time
  • The opportunity to take advantage of the latest technology available to increase your agility and speed to market

Technology is not the only factor that will resolve our issues with climate change and enable all organisations to meet their net zero targets. However, it is ideally placed to play a major part.

For instance, moving out of costly, power hungry data centres to more carbon neutral environments provided by the major public cloud providers (Hyperscalers), can immediately have a benefit. They all now offer tools to enable you to calculate your carbon footprint, when consuming the relevant services, which are all detailed below.

Microsoft (Azure)

Google (GCP)

AWS Customer Carbon Footprint Tool

Some cloud providers are further ahead than others, but they are all moving in that direction, with the intention to go further. It is more difficult to obtain details on your carbon footprint at smaller public cloud providers, but there are free tools available that can help with this. One such tool is the Open Source Cloud Carbon Calculator (sponsored by Thoughtworks).

Used primarily with Azure, AWS and GCP - The solution is open and extensible with the potential to add other cloud providers, on-prem or co-located data centres.

However, we also need to be mindful that the carbon footprint of tech infrastructure now exceeds that of pre-Covid air travel, according to a report released earlier this year by French think tank The Shift Project, which says emissions generated by tech are growing at 6% a year. This is as a result of the increasing reliance on technology, whilst the corresponding improvements in efficiency are unable to keep up.

Edge Computing

Edge Computing is beginning to gain ground, with the advent of 5G. It is envisaged this will result in less power consumption. However, this is only possible if it can be deployed in highly efficient, AI-enabled HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems to handle the power and cooling of the servers.

However, once you have many more distributed sites this becomes a more difficult expense to justify. This is particularly true when buildings haven’t been designed and built specifically to be data centres but are instead refurbished buildings like old central offices which many companies have." There are also security concerns regarding deployment and ongoing management of these. There are a series of measures that owners of these Edge Computing rooms can take to become more efficient, using the reduce, reuse and/or recycle methodology.

These include:

Reduce

  • Use renewable energy
  • Precise Monitoring & Liquid Cooling / Switch off environmental units where possible
  • Power optimisation – cold aisle, warm aisle

Reuse

  • Asset Planning / Server life expansion
  • Waste Heat Recovery
  • Refurbished Server rooms

Recycle

  • If you cannot measure – you cannot control
  • Recycle materials used in data centres
  • Ensure your provider has a roadmap towards net zero

VDI also being used to replace the need to have the latest and greatest laptops to meet the needs of developers and heavy users of resources, which also means that older, less capable laptops can be reprovisioned instead of being thrown away and replaced. In short, there are many innovative uses of technology already being employed, and these all need to be incorporated in your thoughts for your IT Strategy.

Guidance for Measuring and Reporting GHG emissions for Businesses

Greenhouse Gas Protocol and the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF) methodologies. PAS 2060:2014 Specification for the demonstration of carbon neutrality

Finally, I just want to leave you with this. IT Leaders are ideally situated to enable their businesses to transition towards net zero, and should take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate their increasing value to an organisation. But you need to act fast, as the time window for getting this right is very short. And if not now, then when?