Technology and sustainability go hand in hand

Technology brings society a lot of good, but we need to make sure it is sustainable.

Technology use is increasing year-on-year and the Coronavirus crisis has only amplified this. That brings us a lot of good, but we also need more resource-hungry data centres to cope with demand.

Since President von der Leyen, the EU has been setting new rules and policies, such as the Green Deal and the Climate Target Plan. And, in parallel, Big Tech firms have been renewing and emboldening their environmental ambitions.

‘Sustainability arms race’

All the way back in 2017, Google announced it had become a “net-zero” company, offsetting its energy usage by buying renewable energy.

This year, in January, Microsoft said it would be “carbon negative” by 2030. The announcement seemingly kicked off a kind of ‘sustainability arms race’ between the Big Tech companies.

By mid-September, Google, Apple and Facebook had all announced that their entire supply/value chains would be carbon neutral by 2030 and Amazon set a deadline of 2040.

European companies are also at the forefront of this race. For instance, NodePole launched its Fossil Free Data Label, enabling transparency and driving the change to fossil-free data.

Sustainability through innovation

So how are they and other tech companies going to meet these objectives? Well, they appear to be going about it in two main ways.

The first is that Big Tech companies are developing newer methods of improving sustainability and footing the bill for offsetting emissions. For instance, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed that the company was looking at “pairing wind and solar sources together and increasing [its] use of battery storage”.

The second way is by harnessing the power of digital technology to increase energy efficiency. This plays to the strengths of tech companies, who are experts at coming up with digital solutions. Indeed, Pichai says that the company is “working on ways to apply Artificial Intelligence to optimise [its] electricity demand and forecasting”.

Another way is to look for smarter places to open data centres. We have heard about one in a cave below a church in Helsinki and seen innovative locations in Northern Sweden’s Norbotten region (where it is very, very cold!). Look out for our upcoming blog post on this.

Building strategic partnerships

Only last week, Microsoft and Shell announced a new partnership to reduce carbon emissions and meet their environmental commitments.

The combination makes sense. Shell is investing more in clean and efficient energy, while Microsoft is a leading tech innovator in AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing, which are increasingly seen as avenues for improving sustainability.

Finding synergies between companies and throughout value chains is an excellent idea, as we need fresh smart and positive approaches and innovation to address climate change.

Partnerships like this could create opportunities for other industrial sectors. For example, look at the impressive Sustainable Underground Mining project – a major Swedish investment that sets the new world standard for underground mining: CO2-free, digitalised and autonomous.

All in all, we see many actors out there who want to make a difference, but let’s not forget we can do a lot ourselves too. Our own website is hosted by Infomaniak Green Hosting (check them out, they are great!). Ever thought of cleaning up your own inbox?