5 ways governments and businesses can go green

By Equinix

Yee May Leong, Managing Director of South Asia, Equinix, shares how organisations can safeguard the planet’s future.

A billionaire tech mogul dooms Earth by convincing the American government to mine, rather than destroy, a fast approaching comet. This forms the satirical climax of Don’t Look Up, one of Netflix’s most watched films of December 2021. It is a grim warning for climate change: governments and businesses can either thwart its worst excesses, or accelerate its progress.

Governments and corporations have a critical role to play in shaping the planet’s future. “Every one of us needs to make sustainability a priority for the future generation to enjoy this planet as previous generations have,” concurs Equinix Managing Director of South Asia, Yee May Leong.

Here are five ways governments and businesses can work towards a low carbon future.

1. Invest in zero carbon energy

“The only way you can reduce carbon emissions is to use energy that doesn't use carbon in the first place,” says Leong. Equinix has invested over US$3.7 billion on sustainable projects, including renewable wind energy, as of May 2021.

Equinix aims to power their two hundred and thirty five data centers with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and has already made significant progress, states Leong. As of 2020, it is fully powered by renewable energy in Singapore.

In the US, Equinix powers its data centers with low carbon hydrogen fuel cells and electricity from wind farms in Texas and Oklahoma. The company will also buy energy from a wind farm in Finland in 2022.

Moving forward, Equinix has partnered with six other companies to fund the development of fuel cells powered by green hydrogen with €2.5 million (US$2.8 million). These fuel cells will power data centres and reduce carbon emissions significantly.

It’s not just businesses making this shift. 37 per cent of electricity in the UK came from renewable energy by 2019, with 20 per cent coming from wind sources. The UK’s green investments have succeeded in nearly halving its carbon emissions over the past three decades, reported Bloomberg.

2. Innovate in energy efficiency

Beyond zero carbon energy, investing in new ways of saving energy is critical, says Leong. Equinix has invested more than US$130 million in energy efficiency upgrades over the past ten years, she shares. They launched the Energy Efficiency Center of Excellence in 2020 to improve cooling measures and fuel cells for their data centres.

Equinix is careful to reuse heat, conserve water, and recycle used equipment in their data centres. Its data centre in Helsinki uses excess heat to warm about 12,000 nearby homes in winter, shares Leong. They have also shifted to using low carbon fuel cells rather than coal-fired generators.

Equinix partnered with other European data center providers and trade associations to form a climate neutral pact in 2020, representing over 90 per cent of the industry. They aim to support the transition to a climate-neutral Europe through improving energy efficiency, buying clean energy, and reusing heat, equipment, and water.

In sunny Singapore where heat reuse is less necessary, Equinix is exploring opportunities with universities to develop other energy saving methods, explains Leong. A promising venture is blue carbon, the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems. Mangroves, for instance, have high rates of carbon capture, and can reduce overall net emissions.

3. Empowering each other

Knowledge is power. Equinix releases Green Power Reports which tell customers their individual carbon footprints. They can then track their progress against their sustainability goals.

Equinix data centers also provide a tool that displays real-time environmental data, such as power consumption levels. These allow companies to monitor their carbon footprint and react accordingly. For instance, companies can use this data to identify overworked servers and redistribute workloads.

Similarly, Singapore has rolled out individual power reports for citizens to monitor their consumption. A mobile app that provides residents with electricity usage reports and a carbon footprint tracker has been released by Singapore’s electricity provider, SP Group, along with the Energy Market Authority and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.

With individualised reports, citizens and consumers can make informed decisions and adjust their consumption patterns accordingly.

4. Collective responsibility

Companies and organisations can come together to pool resources. For instance, companies can rent data servers from a shared facility rather than building and maintaining their own centres. This minimises resource consumption.

“Every house wants a swimming pool of their own. Can we share the swimming pool?” questions Leong. It is vital to practice responsible consumption and share our resources to reduce our environmental impact.

5. Net zero starts from ground zero

On the most fundamental level, organisations can reduce emissions at home. Equinix carefully considers its supply chains to ensure they are buying from sustainable sources, explains Leong.

Equinix is partnering with its top suppliers of goods and services to set their own targets for carbon reduction by 2025, such as construction contractors as well as backup generator and refrigerant companies. Equinix has also set a science-based target to be climate neutral and reduce supply chain emissions from fuel and energy-related activities by 50 per cent by 2030.

The Singapore government has encouraged its agencies to buy sustainably from 2006. The civil service has since moved towards only buying paper products certified with The Green Label, Singapore’s environmental standard and certification mark, reported The Straits Times in 2016.

“If every one of us works through our supply chains to reduce carbon emissions, the net overall effect should be a positive one,” Leong notes.

“Don’t look up,” chant the comet deniers of the 2021 satire. With these five strategies, governments and businesses can look ahead to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard the planet.