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Schneider Sustainability Framework offers a roadmap for climate response

Schneider Sustainability Framework offers a roadmap for climate response

Schneider Sustainability Framework Offers Roadmap for Climate Response

A chart from Schneider Electric’s sustainability framework showing how organizations can use metrics for responding to the climate crisis. (Image: Schneider Electirc)

At DCF we’ve noted how the leading data center and cloud computing companies are They should be stepping up their sustainability efforts. Leadership matters, but there’s not always a clear roadmap on how smaller companies can adapt the innovation strategies of hyperscale operators.

If the world is to address climate changes, it must address this sustainability gap, and not just large corporations. Pankaj Sharma, Schneider Electric says the need for a broad-based response has been heightened by two trends – the shrinking window for climate action, and the acceleration of the global shift to a digital economy.

“If you look at the IPCC (United Nations’ climate report), we have basically just the next decade for drastic action,” said Sharma. “The other big challenge is that there’s a whole heap of digitalization happening. In the next 20-years, the demand for data centers is expected to double.

“How do we make sure that this is sustainable?” asked Sharma, the Executive Vice President of the Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric. “There’s a lot of talk, but when it comes down to measuring impact, that’s a very difficult question.”

Schneider Electric hopes that the data center industry will respond collectively. Schneider Electric, a global energy services company, recently released a sustainability framework that will help data center users to identify, measure, and manage their carbon footprint.

Sustainability includes many components such as facility design, energy efficiency and use of power and/or water, sourcing renewable energies, waste management, recycling, and many others. That makes it hard to develop climate responses that address the full scope of an organization’s environmental impact.

“Environmental sustainability reporting is a growing focus for many data center operators,” said Sharma. “Yet, the industry lacks a standardized approach for implementing, measuring, and reporting on environmental impact. Our intention with this framework is to improve benchmarking and progress toward environmental sustainability to protect natural resources for future generations.”

Adoption of Metrics Gags in Key Categories

Schneider’s framework reflects the growing recognition that the cloud computing sector must step up its efforts on climate changeTo ensure the future of the planet.

Schneider provides industry-wide guidance by providing standard metrics. The framework provides organizations with a flexible way to assess their current status. The framework is the Guide to Environmental Sustainability Metrics For Data Centers, which identifies the categories of climate impacts and the metrics in each area that are applicable to target setting, reporting and certification of environmental impact.

“We need a common understanding that looks at the entire energy footprint, including PUE, greenhouse gases, water waste, and land and biodiversity,” said Sharma. “This is based on our experience. For us to find common ground, we must start somewhere. It’s really about the stage that you pick.”

Based on the company’s current capabilities and future plans, the framework will outline which metrics can be adopted and tracked by each company.

Schneider Electric’s framework was developed by its Energy Management Research Center, which sought input from ESG experts, sustainability consultants, data center scientists, and solution architects, with a goal of “taking the guesswork out of measurement and reporting” – a key step in equipping operators to instrument and document their IT operations.

“You can’t have an impact on what you don’t measure,” said Rob Brothers, Program Vice President for the Datacenter and Support Services Program at IDC. “Companies must establish clear and consistent metrics that account for not only efficient technology, but also the consumption (or possible destruction) of natural resources such as water, land and biodiversity.”

For years, the data center industry’s primary “green” metric has been power usage effectiveness, or PUE, which was developed in 2007 by industry consortium The Green Grid to provide a benchmark for energy efficiency. According to data from The Uptime Institute, about 70% of data center operators track PUE over the years. There is growing concern about Water scarcityThis has prompted some action with 51% of data centers now tracking water usage.

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However, the numbers start to drop after that. While large companies often track carbon and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions as part corporate responsibility initiatives, Uptime found that only 33% are tracking IT or data centre carbon emissions. Only 25% of IT equipment users keep track on e-waste and recycle.

Schneider recognizes this disparity and has created a framework that allows organizations to choose the appropriate entry point to establish metrics that will allow them to track their progress and measure their impact.

Schneider includes a category for Land and Biodiversity, noting that “data centers have a direct impact on the land they are built upon and an indirect land impact from their supply chain.” This will become an important metric as more data centers adopt on-site energy sources such as solar arrays and generation.

“The ability to measure energy, greenhouse gases and water is more common than on waste, and land and biodiversity,” said Sharma. “It’s easier to measure these things than the carbon impact of who you’re selling to and who you’re buying from (in scope 3 emissions tracking).”

To drive change, think leadership

Sharma acknowledges the difficulty of addressing the climate crisis. The shrinking timelines make it more difficult. He believes that many operators have the capacity to act and are seeking guidance on how to best proceed.

“We are in the very early stages,” he said. “We are going to our customers with these measures and having conversations. They want something like this.”

Schneider is using its global reach to push for change. The Paris-based company has a long tradition of engagement and positive climate change impacts. It launched a Sustainability barometer, which it estimates has saved 120 million tons of CO2 emissions for customers since 2005.

“We are a very purpose driven company,” said Sharma. “For us, it’s a thought leadership piece.  We’re sharing this framework with our larger customers and we’re talking about it at conferences. Now we’re working with the analyst community and seeking help from those with a strong voice in the industry. We are confident in the technical capabilities and science-based approach.

“The key question is where is the pivot?” asked Sharma. “If we only have 10 years, are we going to apply this now? I feel positive. Only half of the world is applying the challenge. The new generation will be really important.”

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