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Schneider Electric: Business leaders deprioritise green goals due to economic pressure

Research from energy management giant Schneider Electric reveals how events like the 2021 energy crisis have altered the investment priorities of enterprises towards green issues

Datacentre leaders from across the UK and Ireland are scaling back and delaying their investments in net-zero initiatives to focus their attention on dealing with, what they term, more immediate business challenges.

That’s according to Schneider Electric’s Missing the target report, which sought to highlight the long-standing impact the 2021 energy price and supply crisis has had on the green IT investment priorities of datacentre-focused business leaders across the UK and Ireland.

Business leaders from more than 1,500 organisations participated in the research, with 81% of respondents of the view that the energy crisis would impact their organisation’s ability to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction plans.

Of that figure, around half of participants said they were also planning to delay investment in sustainability initiatives and net-zero plans (49%), with 40% claiming they now have more immediate business challenges to attend to.

A further 43%, meanwhile, also claimed that emission reduction targets were no longer an issue for their stakeholders, while 22% said they found taking practical action to meet targets difficult.

Despite this, nearly a third (32%) of respondents believed tackling climate change and achieving their net-zero ambitions would become a greater priority over the next three years, while just 11% said national net-zero commitments would be diluted in that time.

“Business leaders tell us that the energy crisis should be seen alongside the many other challenges they have faced over the last 12 months, including economic pressures, cyber security and skills shortages,” said Mark Yeeles, vice-president of the secure power division at Schneider Electric UK and Ireland. “Yet our research suggests that some of the UK and Ireland’s datacentres are ‘kicking the carbon emissions can down the road’, as a result of the energy crisis.”

Clock ticking on climate commitments

However, with the clock ticking on the legally binding contents of the Paris Agreement 2016, which saw countries across the world commit to taking actions to keep global temperature increases below 1.5-2°C, it is time datacentre operators stepped up their efforts to tackle climate change.

“As fears grow about progress against global commitments made under the Paris Agreement, and the UK’s Climate Change Committee warns of a lack of progress on emissions cuts, the UK and Ireland need datacentres to play their part and stick to their net-zero and emissions reduction targets,” said Yeeles.

The survey participants also expressed some feelings of optimism about how energy prices might fare over the next three years, with 32% feeling confident that energy prices will fall in that time and 71% expecting the energy crisis to still be casting a long shadow over their business in 12 months’ time.

“It’s not all doom and gloom. As our research shows, business leaders still believe in their climate change ambitions – they simply need to push the subject back up the corporate agenda,” said Yeeles.

“The technology required to help businesses decarbonise is already available, and the return on investment for these solutions has never been more attractive, with payback periods measured in months rather than years.”

He added: “Organisations still have time to meet their net-zero commitments by understanding and addressing energy use, investing in renewable energy and energy-saving technology, and embedding sustainability and carbon reduction targets in their business plans.”  

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