juanjo tugores - Fotolia

Datacentre operators under pressure to embrace sustainability as climate change activism rises

The rise in climate change activism across the globe means consumers are becoming increasingly likely to vote with their feet and shun brands that do not operate in a sustainable way, and datacentre operators must prepare

Datacentres are at risk of being reviled in the same way as the coal industry by environmentalists unless operators show they are willing to embrace more sustainable practices, it is claimed.

Christoffer Svanberg, chief communications officer from datacentre-focused Swedish commercial investment hub The Node Pole, told delegates at the Datacloud Europe Congress in Monaco that the datacentre industry must do more to embrace renewables and sustainability, as consumer awareness of climate change grows.

“We have to put sustainability at the heart of our operations and do it not in a green-washing way, but in a proper way, because otherwise we run the risk of becoming the next coal industry,” he said.

And time is of the essence, because climate change activism is rising steeply across the world, evidenced by the meteoric rise of 16-year-old Climate Strike pioneer Greta Thunberg within the public’s consciousness, he added.

In less than six months, Thunberg has gone from being virtually unknown outside of her home country of Sweden to becoming a Time magazine cover star.

In line with this, consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about opting to work with brands and companies whose outlook and support for sustainability related matters matches their own, he said.

That means businesses that continue to use fossil fuels, or operate in other environmentally unfriendly ways, could find themselves at a commercial and competitive disadvantage in the years to come.

“People don’t only think that it’s politicians, taxes and regulations…who should sort this problem out. They are expecting businesses to take responsibility and are expecting businesses to help sort this problem,” he said.

“People are concerned. They want to make a change, and they’re expecting businesses to take responsibility and want businesses to provide them with sustainable solutions.”

This is also true of datacentres that are unwilling to make investing in sustainability a top business priority, as the amount of power the sector consumes is likely to see it come under increasing scrutiny from environmentalists and lobbyists in the years to come.

Particularly if, as predicted, the power consumption of the sector increases from 2% to 10% of the world’s total energy between now and 2030, he added.

“I am urging all of you to go home looking at your investment plans and decision making, and urging you to put sustainability at the top of all of those decisions as we believe your businesses will be punished, long term, if you don’t,” he warned.

This means operators should start ramping up their use of renewable energy and introduce policies to reduce the carbon emissions generated by their operations, as well as seek out datacentre sites that make achieving both of these things easier.

These are areas where some of the hyperscale cloud providers, such as Google and Microsoft, are setting a good example for the colocation community to follow, but there is still a lot more that can be done.

This is why The Node Pole is championing its Fossil Free Data labelling scheme for datacentre operators to make it easier for enterprises to source cloud and colocation services from providers who operate their facilities in a sustainable way.

“We’ve seen the trends and what customers expect. They want to buy sustainable cloud services just as they want to buy sustainable car fleets, but currently we don’t think there is a good way to make that happen,” he said.

“[Customers] want to buy sustainable, achieve sustainable and they want to tell the world how they did it, and at the same time this industry should go sustainable, choose that path and tell the world about it,” Svanberg added.

Read more about datacentre sustainability

Read more on Datacentre energy efficiency and green IT

Data Center
Data Management