Data centre capacity is what enables the current and future evolutions of software, technology, and the growth of business globally. However, such services come with their own footprints, making it increasingly important for these providers to deliver computing power sustainably.
For companies to continue developing solutions like those leveraging generative artificial intelligence (AI), data centre providers are increasing their capabilities with an emphasis on zero emissions. As such, the following companies are the ones we see leading the way in doing so.
Sustainability Lead: Alise Porto, SVP of Power & Sustainability
It's wise to take note when Greenpeace gives its commendation for environmental achievements. The data centre firm Switch earned the top score among all companies in the Clicking Clean Report. Undoubtedly, their use of renewable energy since 2016 played a significant role in achieving this.
Further recognition has been awarded to Switch as it was given the highest environmental accolade by S&P, with the international rating agency emphasising their adherence to both social and governance norms.
Sustainability Lead: Alice Penfold, Head of EHS
AirTrunk, a major player in the Asia-Pacific region, was established in 2015. Its mission is to constantly redefine and provide the hyperscale data centres of the future, aiming to satisfy the requirements of the leading technology firms of today and tomorrow.
In terms of its operational practices, a key focus is on enhancing water efficiency by implementing water conservation measures. Their commitment to sustainability is evidenced by their alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and adherence to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Sustainability Lead: Randy Brouckman, Co-Founder & CEO
The data centre hyperscaler EdgeConneX has set its sights on becoming a carbon-neutral, waste-neutral, and water-neutral data centre provider by 2030, as part of its ESG sustainability strategy. The company is focused on developing and managing a data centre platform fully powered by renewable energy. This ambitious plan is backed by the significant US$1.7bn in sustainability funding it secured in early 2023.
7. Ark Data Centres
Sustainability Lead: Pip Squire, Head of Energy & Sustainability
The UK-based Ark Data Centres is known for its high efficiency and sustainable practices. The company is focused on reducing its environmental footprint and has incorporated a comprehensive environmental management system to support all of its functions. Also in support of the European Green Deal's objectives, the team is working towards significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals, with the ultimate aim of contributing to Europe's goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050.
6. Iron Mountain
Sustainability Lead: Chris Pennington, Director Energy and Sustainability
Iron Mountain is a leading figure in the data centre sector's pursuit of sustainability. The company runs entirely on renewable energy sources, engages in carbon credit initiatives, and ensures a minimal Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). Iron Mountain has set forth bold targets, aiming for net zero emissions and complete reliance on clean electricity by 2040, outpacing the Paris Climate Accord's timeline by ten years.
As a participant in the EU Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, Iron Mountain is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. The firm's strong commitment to sustainable practices serves as a model for others in the industry.
5. NTT Communications and NTT Anode Energy
Sustainability Lead: Vicky Bullivant, SVP Sustainability & HSE
In 2022, NTT Communications Corporation (NTT Com—part of NTT Group) in collaboration with NTT Anode Energy (NTT AE) launched a sustainable power option for customers using NTT Com's data centres. The initiative allowed clients to select renewable energy sources to support their decarbonisation efforts and lower their CO2 emissions.
This combined effort bolstered environmental campaigns such as “Renewable Energy 100%” (RE100) and supported the Act on Promotion of Global Warming Countermeasures. The use of additional renewable energy sources, such as off-site power purchase agreements, significantly enhanced clients' environmental, social, and governance (ESG) management strategies.
Sustainability Lead: Chris Wellise, VP, Global Sustainability
Equinix is a leader in the realm of data centre efficiency, emphasising the importance of green energy. The company and its operations are driven by 100% clean, renewable energy and consistently high standards of energy efficiency at all of its locations.
All new constructions across its globally-renowned platform are set on the sustainability trajectory in line with LEED Silver (or equivalent) certifications. The company has invested more than U$129m to carry out its commitment and has become a leading advocate for environmentally friendly data centre development.
Read the Equinix report, which was produced in collaboration with executives across the organisation’s key functions.
3. Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric, a leading data centre firm and top company for Sustainability, exemplifies how the sector can make the most of sustainability while remaining competitive in its market. Recognised as the most sustainable company globally in 2021 and the premier PPA marketplace solution provider in 2022 by Guidehouse Insights, Schneider Electric continues to receive notice as one of the industry’s main innovators.
Central to its efforts in this sector is the EcoStruxure Smart Grid, which is known to be influential in Italy’s transformation, achieving 40% renewable energy coverage across the country. The organisation’s commitment extends to ambitious goals, such as the supply of green electricity to 50 million individuals by 2025. Schneider Electric University's Data Centre Certified Associate programme hosts a course on Alternative Power Generation Technologies. Schneider Electric's focus on sustainability uniquely positions it in the data centre industry.
2. Digital Realty
Sustainability Lead: Aaron Binkley, VP, Sustainability
In 2021, Digital Realty, a leader in data centre operations, was honoured with the 2021 EPA Energy Star Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award, which recognised its commitment to energy efficiency. This achievement marked the company as the first data centre globally to reach one gigawatt (GW) of zero-emission IT capacity.
Additionally, the company exceeded 64% renewable energy coverage, which is a result of 14% increase within a single year. During this year, Digital Realty also expanded its commitment to green energy by integrating an additional 118 megawatts (MW) from solar and wind sources into its grid.
The company also successfully issued two green bonds, cumulatively raising the value of its green bond investments to US$6bn since 2015. Its portfolios in the US and Europe reached 100% renewable energy coverage, and their French operations achieved carbon neutrality.
1. Google Cloud
Sustainability Lead: Kate Brandt, Chief Sustainability Officer
Since 2007, Google has maintained a carbon-neutral status, balancing its carbon footprint with offsets and prioritising renewable energy sources for its operations that support organisations globally. Impressively, Google matched its electricity consumption with 100% renewable energy since 2017.
Its data centres are models of energy efficiency, using advanced cooling methods and artificial intelligence to optimise energy usage. The company's approach extends beyond energy management, encompassing sustainable building designs, responsible supply chain partnerships, and innovative water conservation strategies, including seawater cooling and reusing wastewater.
Google Cloud's transparency in reporting environmental impact and its ambitious goal to achieve 24/7 carbon-free energy operation by 2030 further highlight dedication to sustainability. By integrating these practices, it will not only minimise its environmental impact, but also drive various industries towards a more sustainable future with digital.