CIOs play an important role in helping companies report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — far beyond switching to energy-efficient clouds or turning off desktop computers at night.
That’s the message from recent customer events put together by software vendors and IT services including SAP, Salesforce, and Google, that this week’s sustainability is making a big feature at the upcoming 21st Cloud Computing event.
Increasingly companies are expected – by their customers and, in some cases, by government – to report greenhouse gas emissions, usually by following standard measurement methodologies such as Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
“With the increasing requirements of ESG [environmental, social, and governance] In reporting, companies look for ways to demonstrate the progress of their employees, boards, and customers in achieving climate goals,” says Jane Bennett, lead technical director for data and technology strategy for sustainability at Google’s Office of the CTO.
Companies control some greenhouse gas emissions directly: so-called Scope 1 emissions from owned or controlled sources such as the fuels you burn to heat offices or power company cars. Organizations have been tracking that data in their ERP systems for a decade or more.
Scope 2 emissions are relatively easy to calculate, from purchased electricity, heat and steam, as utilities typically report their average emissions per kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced. These emissions may appear as a line on your office or data center electricity bill.
The challenge for many is to extend reporting capabilities to scope 3 emissions – everything else, including goods and services purchased, products sold, transportation and distribution, waste disposal, employee mobility, and business travel. (Remember that?)
Few companies have faced the challenge of reporting comprehensive emissions data: Doing so requires a lot of data from suppliers, and the ability to link it to purchased goods and services. The availability of specialized software tools for sustainability reporting, or modules in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, which can do just that makes full emissions reporting a more realistic proposition, so while the ‘why’ of reporting may still be driven by a board The management or governance committee, “how” and “when” are among the many questions that the CIO must answer.
Reporting total emissions has net benefits
Google Cloud Platform Adds Carbon Footprint Reports to cloud console, enabling customers to monitor total cloud carbon emissions by project, product or region, says Google’s Bennett. It also provides customers with tools to help move workloads to areas with low-carbon data centers, a site standard that may become just as important as data protection compliance.
When reporting the console’s total carbon emissions, Google provides important transparency, highlighting how accurate and real-time data are in ensuring emissions reporting does the job.
Google has been carbon neutral since 2007, which means its data centers still consume carbon-emitting electricity but buy carbon offsets to offset those emissions. Since 2017, it’s been “100% renewable,” buying enough renewable energy to match its annual electricity consumption – although if the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing when and where it needs power, the actual electricity you used may have been from plants Coal-fired power, so there’s still room for improvement.
That’s why, says Bennett, Google is working to completely decarbonize its cloud operations on a 24-7 basis by 2030, providing clean energy for every site and every hour of operation.
With the cloud console, Google provides its customers with the level of data they need to do this too — and makes it easy for them to import the data into their reporting systems.
“To help our customers calculate emissions outside of our cloud and across their enterprise, we also partner with Salesforce Sustainability Cloud, integrating Google Cloud emissions data into their carbon accounting platform,” Bennett says.
Google has another piece of sustainability news: opening up its Google Earth Engine satellite data platform to Google Cloud Platform users, allowing them to use AI and BigQuery tools to analyze satellite imagery in conjunction with other data sources such as water availability or weather hazards.
Other Sustainability Reporting Programs
Salesforce.com announced its sustainability game a month ago, at Dreamforce 2021, saying that it also uses “100% renewable” electricity (average over the year) and has reached net zero emissions across the entire value chain (including Scope 3). It got there with its cloud sustainability software, which has cut annual reporting time from six months to six weeks, according to the company.
At the event, it unveiled Sustainability Cloud 2.0, adding new Slack-based tools to collect Scope 3 emissions data from suppliers, new forecasting and scenario planning tools for managing impacts on business related to climate change, and announcing plans to build an online exchange for carbon credits.
SAP positions itself as a link for the collection and processing of greenhouse gas emissions data. By leveraging tools like its Ariba Procurement Network, it can facilitate the exchange of information about the cost of carbon, as well as the dollar cost of goods and services, and the ERP systems that its customers use already contain a lot of information about what they are doing. They and those with whom and when necessary spend to calculate greenhouse gas emissions. Last year it announced SAP Product Carbon Footprint Analytics to provide insight into the impact of specific products, and in September 2021 it released SAP Product Footprint Management, which provides additional management tools and integration into business processes.