The COP26 UN Climate Change Conference highlighted the depth of the growing climate emergency . It also made it clear that everyone — individuals, government and businesses — has a part to play in reaching "carbon net zero": achieving an overall balance between the amount of carbon being emitted into and the amount being removed from the atmosphere.
Under new rules from the UK Government likely to be introduced in 2023, most large UK organisations will have to demonstrate how they intend to hit this goal. Consumers are also putting more pressure on companies to demonstrate that they're taking a sustainable “green” approach to their operations.
IT is one of the contributors of the climate emergency, accounting for a significant proportion of energy use in all but the most energy-intensive industries. But IT can also be one of the heroes, offering huge untapped potential to help companies in all industry sectors achieve net zero.
Here are 5 ways you can use IT to deliver environmental sustainability and meet net zero goals:
1. Reduce the amount of energy your IT systems consume
Moving your IT operations and applications from traditional on-prem hosting to the cloud can significantly reduce the amount of electricity you need to power your business systems. Google’s data centres use 50% less energy than the average enterprise data centre and are becoming more efficient every year as Google uses innovations like Machine Learning to automatically manage its cooling systems. In the sites where this has been implemented, it’s reducing energy demand by 30% compared to traditional cooling management. Overall, compared with 5 years ago, Google’s data centres can now deliver around 7 times as much computing power with the same amount of electrical power.
2. Power your IT systems with net zero electricity
You can also significantly reduce the impact of your IT systems by partnering with IT suppliers who are working towards or have already achieved "net zero" operations. That means finding a supplier who is either sourcing “clean” energy from renewable sources — such as wind and solar — or offsetting fossil fuel emissions (for a carbon-neutral approach).
Since 2017, Google has matched 100% of its global energy consumption with purchase of energy from renewable sources. That's the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road and makes Google the world's largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. Since 2010, the company has committed to investing more $2.5 billion in renewable energy projects to allow it to use carbon-free energy in all places at all times.
For cosmetics company and Ancoris client Lush, Google's green credentials are vital to achieving its own “ethical” mission. “Everything we do inside our technology arm we want to make sure is powered by 100% renewable energy and the alignment for that is great with Google,” says Lush’s head of engineering, Ryan Kerry.
3. Reduce carbon emissions from your technology lifecycle
Producing and disposing of IT hardware also takes energy. Many businesses are locked into a relentless cycle of refreshing hardware every two or three years. Cloud computing can help you break this cycle — or slow it down — because many SaaS apps will happily run on low-spec devices, as long as they have a web browser. That makes it easier to repurpose older devices, rather than disposing of them, and to keep them in service for longer.
In fact, Google has taken this approach a step further with its commitment to create a ‘circular economy’ where everything it uses can be easily refurbished, repaired, reused and recycled. And it has already implemented processes to ensure waste is “designed out” when it develops hardware for both its data centres and end users.
4. Reducing carbon emissions from your operations
It isn't just your IT operations that can move closer to net zero with cloud computing. Digital transformation using cloud-based technologies can help you reduce the energy needed to run every aspect of your business.
You can use video conferencing tools such as Google Meet to reduce the need for office-based staff to travel to meetings. Digitising paper-based processes with custom apps created using tools like Google App Engine will help you reduce the energy associated with manufacturing, transporting and recycling stationery.
If your business involves physical products, you can use the powerful analytics of data warehouse solutions like Google BigQuery to minimise waste in your supply chain, so you're not generating unnecessary carbon emissions in the form of raw materials you never use, byproducts that needn't be generated, or excess inventory that should never have been produced. You can also apply the same Machine Learning technologies that Google uses to reduce electricity use in its data centres to your factory operations.
5. Help employees minimise their own carbon emissions
Corporate IT can even help your employees minimise their own carbon footprint. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that collaborative tools like Google Workspace allow people to work from home — at least some of the time — while remaining productive and effective.
As well as Google’s cloud-based products being carbon neutral, offering people the option of hybrid working also allows people to quickly lower their carbon emissions, based on reducing people’s need to commute.
Working with our Google Cloud Modernisation team
Here at Ancoris, we've recognised the key role IT can play in tackling the climate emergency and achieving net zero by creating Ancoris GreenLab. It lets you tap into our experience of using cloud computing to help organisations like yours meet their sustainability goals.
We have support from an in-house, award winning application development practice to deliver embedded analytics incorporating beautifully designed UIs. We are leaders in geospatial data and one of the first companies globally to achieve the Google Cloud Location-based Services specialisation.
If you'd like to find out more about how we can help you build your own modern data and analytics platform, why not take a look at some of our customer stories or browse our resources. Needless to say, please get in touch with our team if you'd like more practical support and guidance.