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‘The data centre sector is in a privileged position to make positive sustainability change’ says Techbuyer and Interact’s Astrid Wynne Rogers

Written by Wed 15 Feb 2023

Data Centre World is just around the corner. Techerati sat down with Astrid Wynne Rogers, the Head of Sustainability at Techbuyer and Interact, to talk about reducing carbon emissions, the circular economy, and sustainability certifications.

Astrid will join a panel at Data Centre World on 8-9 March at ExCeL London to discuss sustainability standards and how data centre operators can demonstrate their success.

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What is the biggest challenge for data centre operators looking to achieve their sustainability goals?

For Astrid, the biggest single challenge is successfully demonstrating a carbon reductions plan, as offsetting is no longer acceptable and end-users are requesting net-zero pledges.

“The UN released a report that coincided with COP27, which made it clear that we cannot just make pledges anymore, we have to substantiate them,” said Astrid.

This substantiation can be difficult for data centre operators dealing with a complex supply chain. Operators should observe their scope three emissions very carefully and engage with their supply chain to get product declarations, asking the right questions, or even seeking alternatives.

For example, operators could look to explore green steel rather than virgin steel during construction, or low carbon alternatives to concrete.

“This will increase the reputation of the sector and allow it to progress by demonstrating a net-positive in terms of sustainability actions. The data center sector is in a privileged position in that it is quite a large buyer. It is in a position to make a positive change,” added Astrid.

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What are the benefits of demonstrating data centre sustainability?

Fundamentally, by demonstrating the sustainability success of data centres, this can have a knock-on effect for other industries. For instance, there is a real opportunity for data centres to adopt circular economy approaches like heat reuse and finding high-quality recycling organisations. These approaches could realise significant energy and cost savings, as operators make more sensible decisions on which hardware to upgrade without stripping out an entire server.

“Data centres are in a great position to kickstart nascent recycling technologies. If done correctly, it can demonstrate this practice to the rest of society. If data centres can do it, then enterprises have the potential, too,” said Astrid.

With the data centre sector expected to grow by 500% globally by 2050, it is important to start thinking about and implementing these changes of behaviour and habits now.

> Watch the full interview with Astrid

What are some bad sustainability habits in the data centre industry?

“A reluctance to consider change,” said Astrid. “We find that quite a lot when my colleagues at Interact do energy analysis on servers.”

Astrid’s colleagues often identify opportunities for operators to save thousands within weeks by migrating workloads on to different services, while shutting off others. However, the reluctance comes from being seen to have done the wrong thing or challenge senior leaders.

“Sometimes, you are going to have to change the way that your contracts operate within your wider communities. That is tricky because you are hitting a barrier in other people’s willingness to change. You will have to cooperate with town councils, or hotel groups, or other businesses,” said Astrid.

Solutions to this large challenge can be re-education in the service sector, forming net-zero plans, and working with external providers who have expertise in negotiating contracts.

Why is it important for operators to strive to obtain sustainability certifications?

For Astrid, obtaining sustainability certifications provides a framework to unify efforts under a common goal. ISOs, for example, are a process of continuous improvement, keeping departments aligned and structured. Net-zero plans align a data centre with the rest of the business world and government.

“There is the EU Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities, which will mean that money won’t come out of the EU, unless you can demonstrate reductions in energy usage and carbon usage over time. I don’t see why the data centre sector would be exempted from that,” said Astrid.

One of the best places to start re-educating sectors and staying ahead of future data centre sustainability requirements is by collaborating with industry leaders at events like Data Centre World. Astrid will be joined by a panel of experts who have helped write sustainability regulations and certifications.

“If you want to hear how these work, these are some of the best people to explain that. You are going to find an awful lot of incidental information by attending a live event,” said Astrid.

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8-9 March 2023, ExCeL London

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Written by Wed 15 Feb 2023

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