Schneider Electric, a global leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation and the world’s most sustainable corporation in 2021, as ranked by Corporate Knights, introduced a groundbreaking comprehensive framework for environmentally sustainable data centers. This industry-first framework proposes five environmental impact areas that include key metrics for data center operators at various stages in sustainability management. By leveraging the framework, operators can mitigate the impact data centers have on the environment.
Data centers are the backbone of today’s digital world. Yet they are responsible for up to two percent of the world’s carbon emissions, equivalent to the emissions of the aerospace industry. Also, they are among the worst offenders when it comes to sustainability: they consume approximately 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. To further compound the problem, data center usage is only increasing as 5G, artificial intelligence and even the metaverse drive digital demand.
To deal with an increase in digital bandwidth and electricity demand from the IT sector, the industry demands a holistic and standardized approach to environmental sustainability. To correct the course of sustainability, both enterprises and data center operators need industry guidance to address these issues and, more importantly, make sustainable options accessible and feasible.
“Environmental sustainability reporting is increasingly important to many data center operators, yet the industry lacks a standardized approach to implementing, measuring and reporting environmental impact. Schneider Electric developed a holistic framework with standardized metrics to guide operators and the industry at large to improve benchmarking and progress toward environmental sustainability and thus protect resources for future generations,” said Pankaj Sharma executive vice president of Schneider Electric’s Secure Energy Division.
“The data center industry has made significant progress in increasing energy efficiency, but as digital demands increase, the commitment to driving long-term sustainability initiatives must grow. You can’t know the impact of something you don’t measure; therefore, companies must establish clear and consistent metrics that account not only for efficient technology, but also the consumption (or potential destruction) of natural resources such as water, land and biodiversity,” said Rob Brothers, program vice president for IDC’s data center and support services program.
Increasing pressures from investors, regulators, shareholders, customers and employees are also driving the need for improved environmental impact reporting in data center operations. However, many data center operators lack sustainability expertise and face the daunting task of determining what metrics to track and what strategies to implement.
Schneider Electric’s framework was developed by its Energy Management Research Center by leveraging the expertise of ESG experts, sustainability consultants, data center scientists and data center solution architects to take the guesswork out of measurement and reporting. The Energy Management Research Center was established in 2002 and has developed more than 200 vendor-independent white papers and compensation tools available free of charge to the industry.
This new framework is based on 23 standard principles that will empower data center leaders to overcome sustainability challenges through standardized benchmarking and actionable conclusions.
Monitoring and reporting on standardized sustainability metrics helps drive improvements in internal team alignment and increases transparency to external stakeholders, including customers and regulators. Implementing this framework also enables data center operators to take actions such as:
- Remove the difficulty of selecting truly impactful metrics for tracking.
- Improve communication and alignment with internal teams on sustainability objectives.
- Act on data to improve operations.
- Enabling regular and consistent reporting to external stakeholders.
- Standardize benchmarking among industry peers worldwide.