By Brett Hargreaves, Cloud Practice Lead at Iridium  
 
A sustainable corporate strategy is no longer an ESG ideal, but an imperative for all companies, with regulators, investors, employees and customers now expecting companies to do more to reduce their carbon footprint and commit to a sustainable future. What's more, recent statistics show that industries that are embracing and actively working towards combatting climate change are performing more efficiently - and often more profitably - than those that do not. 
 
And if that isn’t enough, the UK government announced at the COP26 that they will be requiring many firms and financial institutions to start publishing their net-zero plans detailing how they will meet the decarbonisation targets by 2050. 
 
In fact, it is now more of a question of why wouldn’t a business do more to make its operations more sustainable due to the fact it is good for the planet AND for business? 
 
Even if sustainability has not been at the heart of your agenda, you may well have already started your incremental journey by being carbon neutral. 
 
Over the last 2 years, due to the COVID pandemic, organisations have accelerated interest and awareness in remote working technologies, which in turn has led to the implementation of sustainability strategies across their digital transformation roadmaps. With the shift in consumer preferences towards sustainable products and services, it is imperative to stay competitive in this new business environment, but also create value for partners, employees, shareholders and customers. 
 
Consumers demand sustainability 
 
A study published by Kantar in April 2022 revealed that, worldwide, people care deeply about social and environmental issues. When asked about these topics in its global Sustainability Sector Index study, three-quarters of people (73%) said they try to factor sustainability into their purchase decisions. 
 
Closer to home, this was reinforced in the results of a recent LinkedIn poll on the same topic carried out by Iridium, with 100% of respondents showing they care about sustainability when investing in services and products. 15% of those respondents said they had a policy to always 
 
shop ethically, 40% said they ‘mostly’ prioritise sustainability, and 45% know they should but do not. 
 
The public desire for an ethical lifestyle is strong – providing even more reason for organisations to put sustainability at the very top of their agendas. 
 
Of course, one of the blockers for many organisations is simply figuring out exactly what they can do. Luckily, we believe there is a way that not only helps businesses be more sustainable, reaching net-zero targets in the process, but also saves costs, helps swifter innovation, and supports an increasingly mobile workforce. 
 
Cloud technologies 
 
A sustainable migration to the Cloud could have the equivalent impact of removing 22 million cars off the road and continued adoption of Cloud computing can prevent more than one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 2021 and 2024. 
 
What’s more, those businesses that have adopted Cloud technologies deliver greater business agility by offering access to data and applications remotely, which has been critical in enabling businesses to continue to function throughout the pandemic, not to mention the reduction of CO2 emissions due to significantly diminished travel. 
 
In turn, the growing desire for organisations to be greener has encouraged tech and Cloud providers to start shifting their operations to be more eco-friendly. 
 
With sustainability now at the heart of business-to-customer and business-to-business purchasing decisions, we have outlined how Cloud adoption can help organisations reach their sustainable objectives: 
 
How can moving to Cloud help? 
 
The first question would most likely be ‘why does moving to Cloud help with sustainability goals?’ 
 
The servers, storage and datacentres that house IT infrastructure have a significant impact on the environment, especially when it comes to CO2. It’s not just the electricity needed to power the servers, businesses must consider air-conditioning, support staff traveling to the datacentre, heating for the offices, and even the IT equipment’s lifecycle from manufacture to decommissioning and disposal. 
 
Therefore, by adopting Cloud, the responsibility is moved to the Cloud service providers – who, luckily for us, are looking at the environmental impact of IT and spending a great deal of time, effort and money on achieving not just net-zero, but in some cases removing all the carbon they have ever put into the air. 
 
What makes the Cloud green? 
 
Cloud service providers, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, are tackling all areas of sustainability and investing heavily in their data centres and other technologies, meaning efficiency and sustainability often go hand in hand. 
 
The first area in which Cloud has become more environmentally friendly than the average datacentre is through choosing and building efficient hardware platforms. Also, Cloud service providers use fewer large data centres, which presents an opportunity to reduce overall IT consumption of energy and emissions. As an example, a recent study by Microsoft showed that Azure datacentres are between 22 and 93 percent more energy efficient depending on the service being compared. 
 
Cloud service providers also use elevated levels of automation, which means fewer people are required to attend site, which, of course, reduces the emissions generated through travel. 
 
The electricity used to power is largely obtained from renewable sources, and the shift is moving towards total green energy at a rapid pace. Microsoft expects to use 100% renewable energy sources by 2025 and has even gone as far as to commit to replacing its worldwide fleet of vehicles with all-electric by 2030. 
 
Reduced waste and efficient cooling Cloud Service Providers ensure that no energy is wasted and that the optimal services are provided with the fewest resources. An intelligent power management system monitors power consumption. If any data centre is supplied with exceeded power, it will be identified and corrected. 
 
Cooling is provided by systems that circulated outside air on all except the hottest days, again with the aim of reducing power consumption as much as possible. 
 
Hardware lifecycles 
 
When hardware needs to be replaced, many Cloud service providers recycle as much IT equipment as possible. In 2019, Microsoft prevented over 200 tonnes of used equipment from going into landfill. 
 
Do not settle for zero, go for negative 
 
There will always be areas that vendors do not have direct control over, such as the hardware supply chain. For this reason, Cloud service providers also invest in ways to either offset carbon emissions, such as planting trees, or by working on technologies that can remove carbon from the atmosphere. Microsoft recently announced that by using such technologies, it plans to remove all the carbon it has ever produced since it was founded in 1975. 
 
The big picture and next steps 
 
Cloud service providers are best placed for achieving some of the targets placed on organisations. By consolidating infrastructure, they can achieve economies of scale not just financially, but with respect to sustainability as well. By moving their server infrastructure to the Cloud, businesses gain from the investments that the likes of Microsoft, Google and AWS are making – not just with net-zero targets, but cost savings too. 
 
Where are you on your Cloud journey? 
 
With any kind of business change we, of course, need to measure our effectiveness with emission KPIs. Not only does this help with the necessary upcoming reporting and planning that will be required, but also helps organisations to understand what is and isn't working. In line with the many technologies and processes to achieve lower emissions, there are also a wide range of tools starting to surface to help businesses work out their own impact - which will help to keep things on track by providing crucial stats around progress and success. 
 
Sources https://www.accenture.com/gb-en/insights/strategy/green-behind-cloud Green Cloud Transition & Environmental Impacts of Stock Exchanges: https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1461103/FULLTEXT01.pdf https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3859765 
 
*A report by the non-profit organisation CDP found that half of the world’s biggest companies believed climate-related opportunities created opportunities totalling over US$2.1 trillion dollars. 
 
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