Cloud And Supply Chains Affect Emissions Targets

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Ecodesk reports the inclusion of supply-chain emissions and cloud adoption distorts emissions totals

A report by sustainability data publishing site Ecodesk has revealed that technology companies are being thwarted in their attempts to reach emissions targets by turning to cloud computing and including their supply-chains in their overall figures.

The omission of third-party emissions by some companies renders some “green” ranking tables “misleading”, the report stated. Ecodesk’s Sustainability and Technology 2011 profiled 52 technology companies and claimed that some firms with the highest carbon footprints are actually the most responsible with regards to emissions.

Dirty Cloud

Samsung and Intel both have high CO2 emissions, but both include the emissions of their supply chains as part of their standard reporting, following guidelines set by World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Both have recognised the benefits of energy efficiency, with Samsung dedicating £2.4 billion towards sustainability.

Samsung has the biggest carbon footprint, with over 55 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, but its supply chain accounts for 43 million tonnes of that figure. Similarly, Intel’s supply chains are the cause of 96 percent of its total emissions of 46 million tonnes.

Robert Clarke, Ecodesk CEO, said “Tech companies in particular are leading the charge and being incredibly courageous by forfeiting their own emission targets to embrace the emissions produced by third parties.”

The shift to cloud computing also affected a number of companies’ emission targets, including Microsoft, Apple and Fujitsu. The report recognised that although adoption of cloud technology would bring longer term environmental benefits, technology companies had to ensure that they were dealing with data centres with sustainability measures.

Currently, information and communication technology (ICT) contributes roughly two percent towards carbon emissions globally, but that figure could be reduced by moving it infrastructures to the cloud.

“It is very important to assess the net carbon impact of the ‘after scenario’,” said Alison Rowe, global executive director of sustainability at Fujitsu, “If you have a clean data centre with renewable energy and you move that into a ‘dirty’ cloud powered by coal then this isn’t an improvement.”

Overall, Clarke was positive about technology companies’ approaches towards sustainability, “The large tech companies are working hard on improving their emissions and reporting transparency.  Extending their carbon footprints to their supply chains and ultimately making the whole industry more responsible can only be a good thing for the environment. They will also realise very significant cost savings in reduced logistics and energy use. The economic drivers are huge.” 

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