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CyrusOne to prioritise water preservation across global colocation estate in sustainability push

Global colocation giant makes good on its promise to publish first sustainability report into its operations, which contains commitments to curb the amount of water its facilities consume locally

Colocation giant CyrusOne has published its first annual Sustainability report, which emphasises the work the company is doing to ensure it does not contribute to water shortages or energy supply issues within the regions where it operates.

The publication of the 42-page report is part of a wider sustainability push by CyrusOne that is geared towards making sure its continued growth does not come at the expense of the environment, or risk contributing to climate change.

As detailed in the report, the company is taking a three-pronged approach to sustainability, with the first prong focused on building datacentres for the long term and with “the future in mind”, rather than to “meet today’s challenges”.

The second prong of its strategy centres on working with its customers to “move their sustainability goals forward”, says the report.

“Our customers have some of the most ambitious sustainability goals of any industry, so the best thing we can do for the environment is to help them succeed,” it says.

The third prong of the company’s approach centres on it doing its bit to safeguard supplies of water and energy by designing and operating datacentres in a way that conserves both these resources.

As part of this, CyrusOne said it is committed to reporting its energy consumption and carbon emissions data, in acknowledgement of how big an impact these metrics have on the environment.

“While consolidating many smaller data rooms into fewer, larger data halls in our operations allows for greater efficiencies, the energy needs for these datacentres is still very large,” says the report.

“We recognise our responsibility to further pursue energy efficiency and decrease carbon emissions, both from our equipment and that of our customers. We will report on our efforts to use energy efficiently and shift to lower carbon alternatives.”

From a water consumption perspective, it is not uncommon for datacentre operators to draw on local water supplies to help keep their facilities cool and drive down the power usage effectiveness (PUE) scores for their server farms.

This practice can exacerbate water shortages in drought-prone areas, which CyrusOne has previously sought to acknowledge by embarking on initiatives in “water-stressed areas” that have seen it seek to replenish supplies in the places where its server farms are sited.

Read more about datacentre sustainability pledges

For example, the company claims to have restored 40% more water than its facility in Chandler, Arizona, consumed in 2019 to the local area to ease pressure on supplies.

“The datacentre industry has long treated water as an ‘invisible’ resource in the pursuit of energy efficiency,” says the report. “With the consolidation of servers into fewer, larger data halls, we as an industry are also contributing to the concentration of water demands into fewer watersheds – creating localised, concentrated impacts – instead of having the demand spread across many watersheds.

“This means there is the potential to create a proportionally large water demand from a large datacentre on a single water source, many of which are already facing water stress.”

For this reason, Kyle Myers, director of environmental health, safety and sustainability at CyrusOne, said the company is intent on tackling water misuse as part of its environmental work, and is committed to reporting on the progress it makes in using this resource responsibly going forward.

“Traditionally, the industry focus is on PUE, without taking the massive water usage needed to offset this number into consideration, which is why we place a high emphasis on all types of natural resources to evaluate a comprehensive global impact,” said Myers.

The company operates more than 50 datacentres in the US and Europe, including six in the UK, and the publication of its first sustainability reports follows its pledge last month to become a carbon-neutral company by 2040.

CyrusOne president and CEO Bruce Duncan said that, given the size of its datacentre footprint, the company is mindful of its responsibilities to ensure its operations do not risk harming the environment.  

“As one of the largest colocation datacentre companies in the world, we have a responsibility to reduce the environmental impact that our facilities create and provide solutions compatible with a sustainable future,” he said.

“Our goal at CyrusOne is to empower our customers with creative solutions that help them scale new technology solutions while reducing our collective environmental footprint.”

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