APC why data centers need to prioritise environmental sustainability in data centers header image

Over the past decade, a strong focus has been placed on data center efficiency levels. This has not only been great for businesses themselves, but it is also beneficial for the planet. Today, this focus has grown to accompany environmental sustainability too, which includes:

  • Renewable energy
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Water
  • Waste
  • Land & biodiversity

Data center owners will experience a multitude of benefits from improving their overall environmental footprint. Today we will look at the four key drivers that should encourage data center providers to prioritise their environmental sustainability.
1. Colocation tenant requirements.
2. Government regulations.
3. Business value.
4. ESG investment.

Colocation Tenant Requirements

There has been a large demand for contractual sustainability commitments as part of a condition for business by prospective customers of colocation providers. A report asking ‘which of the following best characterizes how important efficiency and sustainability are today for your customers?’ showed that nearly all businesses have customers asking them for sustainability commitments, with only 1% of customers feeling differently.

APC Colocation Tenant Requirements question

Providing data center environmental sustainability reports
Tenants rely on their colocation providers for information on environmental sustainability goals and reports on their progress. Many large corporations are currently pledging to reach net-zero emissions as part of their own sustainability goals. To reach net-zero emissions companies must disclose their GHG emissions in their sustainability reports.

Circular Economy Practices
Using circular economy practices is a great way to improve sustainability practices and is a highly requested factor for providers within their operations. Specific recycling programs are a great way to help improve waste division efforts and can help ensure the proper disposal of hazardous materials. With circular practices, old IT equipment can be dismantled into separate materials and reused in future products.

Reduce Scope 1, 2 & 3 GHG Emissions
Providers who choose methods that reduce their GHG emissions from operations are more popular with tenants. Scope 3 emissions are widely under-reported even though they make up the largest portion of a data center’s GHG footprint. One way to improve upon this is to require vendors to provide Type III Environmental Product Disclosures (EPDs) to document the emissions information.

Government Regulations

With the attention that sustainability and efficiency have received it is no wonder that the government and climate ‘watchdog’ organisations have jumped on to the trend. To help to try and curb the environmental impact that is caused by data center organisations lawmakers have been creating regulations to help monitor resource consumption and carbon footprints. These regulations are so strict that companies that don’t comply may face the revocation of their license to operate.

Continuous Focus on Refrigerants
HVAC systems contain Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants that are a potential source of GHGs. Countries have reached a consensus to phase down or even phase out these refrigerants based on Montreal Protocol.

APC Continuous Focus on Refrigerants map

Phasing out SF
Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF) is used within electrical systems as an insulation gas. This is one of the most potent greenhouse gas emissions. The European Commission is currently considering a ban to take place on SF gas due to its harmful nature. This ban would take place between 2025-2030 to give vendors and customers time to remove and replace equipment that uses this gas.

Sustainability Insights and Regulations

  • The European Union’s (EU) Directive 2014/95/EU on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information, or the ‘NFR Directive’, introduced the obligation to report various non-financial data on environmental, social, and employee indicators for large companies.
  • The EU’s Green Deal warns of the need to act to make data centeres more energy efficient. To address this, EU advisors want tougher controls for data centers, prioritising energy-efficient rules.
  • Last year the EU released their ‘fit for 55’ legislation that included their goal to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030.

Business Value

Katrine Julie Heuer has said that marketing sustainability and reporting have become alternatives to traditional advertising techniques due to their ability to promote transparency and build trust. Sustainability, therefore, offers companies a competitive advantage that helps them to attract and retain both customers and investors.

Deploy sustainabiltiy solutions
Solar and wind energy sources can easily be built near data centers to help provide them with renewable energy. As data centers are very energy intense operations, renewable energy typically only covers a fraction of the overall energy needs but they still have a positive impact. Using these renewable energy sources, particularly on a grid system, businesses can create opportunities like peak shaving, demand response, and payback periods. Some sustainable technologies, particularly cooling solutions, can also save you substantial savings.

Improve Competiveness
With the innovative new technology that is available today, it is easy to improve the competitiveness and performance of your data center through high-efficiency UPS, trim chiller cooling systems, and lithium-ion batteries. For example, APC 3 Phase UPS are capable of delivering 97% efficiency in double conversion normal mode, and 99% in high-efficiency normal mode.

Attract New Customers
By investing in forward-thinking, sustainable technologies, you are communicating a focus on sustainability to your customers. This focus can make you a more attractive company to work with and may help with permitting times and fewer community objections when looking to build data centers in certain areas.

APC sustainabilty initiatives graph

Retain Talented Employees
Comapanies that focus on sustainability and inclusivity usually increase workplace satisfaction for their employees, resulting in a lower employee turnover. Environmental sustainability and inclusivity are key factors in improving your brand’s reputation, reducing your TCO, improving your competitiveness against your competition, retaining talented and loyal employees, and increasing your brand’s value.

ESG Investment

Alining environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives to your business opens up investment capital and investment focus. Many investors will use specific ESG-related criteria to help them to evaluate a company’s potential.

Demonstrate Sustainability-related Commitments & Progress
As an investment strategy, Larry Fink said that sustainability should be the new standard for investing. With 90% of companies in the S&P 500 Index having published a sustainability report, it is clear that public companies are adopting sustainability into their operating and reporting strategies.

Data centers should be focusing on efficiency, renewable energy supply, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water conservation, waste recycling, and land & biodiversity to reach their environmental sustainability goals. The focus on sustainability is quickly and clearly becoming a top priority for both colocation operators and their tenants. With tenants becoming for demanding of their suppliers to act in more sustainable ways, service providers that meet their sustainability targets are becoming increasingly more popular with both customers and investors.

APC EcoStruxure Row Data Center header image
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