5 Ways that Data Centre Companies can Avoid Greenwashing

As data centres seek to make good on their sustainability strategies, we consider some of the ways they can achieve this whilst avoiding greenwashing

As we transition further into a digital-first economy, the data centre industry has had to consider its true environmental impact.

It was predicted at the start of 2024 that, as global electricity demands continue to grow, data centres could encounter severe environmental challenges as they work to meet expanding customer needs. It is expected that data centres will surpass 2% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions in the near future.

With this in mind, Data Centre Magazine considers some of the ways that data centre companies can avoid greenwashing and best support their customers, whilst remaining sustainable.

Greenwashing refers to an organisation that conveys a false impression of the environmental benefits of a product or service.

5. Setting realistic targets

Last year, a report by the European Commission found that 42% of companies exaggerated their sustainability claims. 

As a result, data centre companies would do well to consider focusing on achievable targets that they can monitor and report on. This will mean that they are less likely to underdeliver on the more ambitious initiatives.

Setting realistic goals means that a company can better track its progress, which will lead to greater successes in the long term.

4. Improve upon existing goals

Once the targets are set, companies can work to define these and make good on their promises at a more effective pace. Although investing in sustainable data centres will result in upfront costs, it will lead to greater benefits in the long run, reducing expenditure and improving efficiencies.

Companies that continually invest in their sustainability targets highlight a commitment to data centre improvement. Companies can track their progress when it comes to reducing carbon footprint, increasing renewable energy usage or lowering water consumption.

3. Embrace new technologies responsibly

In order to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to digital transformation, data centre companies are beginning to harness the power of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and liquid cooling.

AI can effectively analyse energy consumption within a facility and identify opportunities for data centre operators to further optimise their energy efficiency. Likewise, liquid cooling and immersion cooling strategies are becoming an increasingly popular solution for data centres to help reduce carbon footprint.

This level of innovation can work to create real-time data insights that can work to improve data centre sustainability reporting.

2. Back up claims with evidence

In order to avoid greenwashing, companies should prioritise being transparent about their sustainable progress. This could involve sharing data on their sustainability performance, outlining clear goals for becoming more energy efficient and detailing the initiatives they are taking to achieve them.

Without evidence, a company's claims can be seen as greenwashing, which can lead to their reputation being damaged. Clear data will ensure that data centres maintain essential levels of trust with their customers.

Likewise, transparency allows for benchmarking and improvement, reducing the data centre’s environmental footprint moving forward.

1. Clear ESG reporting

The data centre industry is facing increasing levels of pressure to be sustainable. As a result, the need for reporting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) progress is important for a company’s stakeholders and customers.

A clear outline of how a data centre company or operator intends to improve upon these initiatives demonstrates a steadfast commitment to sustainability, in addition to being beneficial for business development.

Some clear examples of data centre companies advancing their sustainability reporting include Digital Realty, Schneider Electric, atNorth and Scala Data Centers.

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