Paving the Way for a Greener Digital Future

Discover Schneider Electric’s updated data center sustainability framework – a standardized approach to measuring and reporting environmental impact.

In response to the growing information processing demands of AI and machine learning, the data center industry is facing the dual challenge of rapid growth to support technological advancements and a reduction of its environmental impact to align with global climate commitments. Schneider Electric™, a renowned global leader in energy management and automation, has unveiled an updated and standardized environmental metrics-reporting framework with critical enhancements to aid companies in addressing this challenge.

This updated framework is a revision of the original whitepaper released in November 2021, designed to assist and promote the data center industry by providing standardized sustainability reporting metrics. It marked the introduction of the first Data Centre Environmental Sustainability Metric Framework of its kind. In 2023, Schneider Electric actively sought feedback from customers and industry associations, which played a vital role in the publication of this latest whitepaper revision.

The framework comprises 28 essential sustainability metrics categorized into five areas: energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water, waste, and the local ecosystem. This recommended data-driven approach is detailed in the revised whitepaper, available for download.

Recognizing that data center companies are at varying stages in their sustainability journey, the whitepaper presents metrics across three reporting stages: Beginning, Advanced, and Leading. The Beginning stage includes six fundamental metrics covering energy, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions—core metrics necessary for all data centers. The Advanced stage introduces more detailed metrics for energy, water, greenhouse gas emissions, and incorporates two new categories, waste and the local ecosystem. The Leading stage further extends the depth of metrics within the existing categories.

Pankaj Sharma, Executive Vice President of the Secure Power Division and Data Center Business at Schneider Electric, emphasized the need for a standardized data-driven approach to enable alignment and prioritization for sustainability improvements, along with the identification of organizational reporting discrepancies. This is essential to meet stakeholder expectations and government commitments. The goal is to establish industry benchmarks based on credible and comparable data to drive meaningful environmental changes.

Achieving sustainability in data centers is an ongoing endeavor that requires industry-wide commitment, investments, and collaboration. By implementing standardized metrics and regularly reporting on them, data centers can reduce their environmental impact while meeting the growing demand for digital services.

The significance of setting standard benchmarks was stressed by Vlad Gabalov, Director at Omdia, Head of the Cloud and Data Research Practice, who emphasized that measuring sustainability is not just an option but a responsibility to the planet and future generations. Uniting under a standardized framework can guide collective actions, foster innovation, and pave the way for a greener, more sustainable digital future.

Key highlights of the updated whitepaper include:

  1. Detailed metrics in five key areas: energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water, waste, and the local ecosystem.
  2. Segmentation of greenhouse gas emissions metrics by scope 1, 2, and 3.
  3. Introduction of “Server utilization (ITEUsv)” in the energy category to guide server reduction efforts for efficient information processing.
  4. Addition of “Water replenishment” in the water category to promote responsible water stewardship.
  5. Inclusion of “E-waste” and “Battery” metrics in the waste category, alongside “Waste generated” and “Waste diversion rate.”
  6. A more extensive focus on the “Local ecosystem” category, encompassing metrics like “Total land use,” “Land-use intensity,” and “Outdoor noise.”
  7. A recommended approach for mapping the maturity level of each metric for ongoing progress measurement.
  8. Best-in-class values and industry target values for each key metric for data center organizations.

This updated framework aligns with Schneider Electric’s recent launch of EcoStruxure Resource Advisor Copilot, a conversational AI tool designed to facilitate interactions with enterprise energy and sustainability data. Copilot equips energy and sustainability teams with enhanced data analysis, visualization, decision support, and performance optimization capabilities. A private beta for Copilot is set to launch in September, with general availability expected in late 2023 or early 2024.

Schneider Electric’s Sustainability Business division has made significant AI-enabled enhancements in recent years, including risk optimization, invoice validation services, and peak alert notifications. These solutions, such as Zeigo Network, Zeigo Activate, and Zeigo Power, leverage data science, machine learning, and AI automation to support sustainability initiatives.