data center blogs

Building a sustainable business culture

22 Apr 2022
As we celebrate Earth Day today, we discuss our Sustainability initiatives in this Q & A with Scott Balloch, Director of Energy and Sustainability, on how we’re building and investing in a sustainable business culture, so that we can move towards a more eco-friendly and sustainable work environment. 
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Scott Balloch - Director of Energy and Sustainability

What is your company’s sustainability approach/investment that employees/partners/customers and the public should be aware of?

Sustainability is central to how Colt DCS operates as a whole, with environmental priorities integrated into all parts of operations. The future of Colt DCS is driven by science-based ambitions, which is why Colt DCS has committed to hitting global net-zero emissions in our data centres by 2040. This goal is in line with the Paris Agreement’s aim to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050.

This science-based target will drive a wider holistic low-carbon business model for the company. With customers and partners increasingly under pressure to achieve their own emission goals, the climate targets adopted by Colt DCS remain driven by a customer-centric vision. 

There are a range of initiatives that Colt DCS is implementing across data centre campuses in order to meet science-based targets. In terms of energy, power-saving measures such as LED lighting fixtures, power factor improvement and the reduction of proper cable sizes and material to reduce IR2 losses, are all schemes being adopted. Environmentally-friendly campus management initiatives in place include run off rainwater tapping and harvesting, organic waste composter for treating organic waste including wet garbage treatment, and solar cell powered street lighting.

How has the understanding of sustainability and approach to sustainability changed for businesses in the post COVID world?

Covid-19 increased businesses’ dependency on digital infrastructure, with the shift to remote work resulting in a drastic increase in energy consumption and generating demand for large-scale solutions, such as hyperscale data centres, to support the seamless transition. It has been predicted that IT will consume 8.5 per cent of global electricity, compared to five per cent in 2021, with data centres in particular taking up a large share of this demand. 

The dramatic increase in energy consumption has forced businesses to acknowledge that they must play a role in not only cutting their own emissions, but also enabling their customers to do the same. IT decision-makers in data centres are increasingly having discussions about corporate and social responsibility to make decisions based on environmental criteria when it comes to the running of operations. For example, Colt DCS is choosing to invest in renewable power for the running of buildings and leased vehicles and is committed to a policy of Zero Waste to Landfill. 

How can technology-based businesses become leaders in the move towards a more eco-friendly and sustainable work environment?

It’s crucial that businesses examine the sustainability of the entire operation chain. This means addressing the challenge of sustainable data centres: data centres have become a central and integrated element of many companies’ operations, and a provider’s ability to deliver its services with a low/zero carbon footprint is crucial to customers’ and partners’ ability to meet their commitments. 

It’s critical that data centres are purpose-built with environmental concerns in mind, with sustainability integrated throughout the process. It is sometimes assumed that data centres in themselves are inherently wasteful due to the power generated. However, on the contrary, using a purpose-built data centre facility designed to be efficient saves more power than the alternative: companies relying on large server rooms distributed across multiple different buildings which have not been designed for purpose. 

For example, operators are increasingly redeploying reused network equipment back into the chain of hardware when possible. Facilities also have the potential to self-generate power, in comparison to outsourced buildings which won’t have a cohesive sustainability strategy. 

Where do businesses (big and small) fall short when it comes to meeting and setting their sustainability goals?

It should be acknowledged that planning data centre capacity can be problematic, with traditional planning cycles accounting for decade-long requirements and lacking the agility to adapt to technological innovations. It can also be challenging to accurately measure carbon emissions generated. This has sometimes led to businesses making unfeasible, unrealistic or nonfactual corporate sustainability promises when it comes to carbon footprint. 

To tackle this, businesses on a net-zero journey should set science-based targets that are accredited and regarded as the industry standard. Becoming sustainable means that an organisation is equipped with the methodology to measure their actual carbon footprint as well as monitor the progress made towards those targets. This approach prevents sustainability efforts from being purely a market positioning initiative and drive an authentic change within and outside the organisation.

A pledge you have made as a company and personally towards the environment this year.

Alongside the overall pledge to global net-zero emissions in our data centres by 2040, Colt DCS has also announced further commitments to the environment. When it comes to electricity, Colt data centres will run on 75% renewable power by 2023, and 75% of leased vehicles will be electric by 2030. The company will also make a complete transition away from natural gas to renewable fuels by 2030, along with implementing carbon offsetting techniques.