EMEA Global Member Summit Highlights #IMSustainability

Jun 29, 2020

Sustainability matters everywhere, of course. But our three virtual Global Member Summits – one held for members in the Americas, one for APAC, and one for EMEA – showcased how responses to the COVID-19 crisis, and the sustainability opportunities it presents, vary around the world. Leaders in Europe appear devoted to collaborating toward both economic and environmental prosperity, and to leveraging digital infrastructure to achieve that win-win.

The EMEA Summit event was moderated by iMasons Founder and Chairman Dean Nelson and featured fireside chats with industry leaders John Tuccillo and Daniela Torres, a panel discussion with Ayotunde Coker, Tom Moran, Lovisa Hagelberg, and Debbie Hobbs, and a working session where Summit attendees ­– senior-level end users and partners from across the digital infrastructure ecosystem – shared their feedback.

“Responses to the COVID-19 crisis, and the sustainability opportunities it presents, vary around the world.” Click to tweet

Highlights from Dean Nelson’s fireside chat with John Tuccillo, Senior Vice President of Global Industry and Government Affairs at Schneider Electric

John Tuccillo has been a busy man lately, on the phone “day and night” talking with government leaders around the world about charting a sustainable path toward economic recovery. “The topics we in the digital infrastructure industry have been talking about for many years are now front and center,” he said. “The general public now understands the reliance on digital technology for economic, personal and environmental security. And because it’s front and center for the public, governments have decided it’s time to act. The ‘IT for good’ message we’ve been sharing for years is finally resonating.”

Tuccillo pointed to the most recent Economist magazine, and the cover story titled “Seize the moment – The chance to flatten the climate curve.” He said, “Governments, particularly in Europe, are looking to keep sustainability at the center of their recovery efforts.” Indeed, the recently released EU recovery plan keeps the EU committed to its transition to a climate-neutral economy.

“EU leaders understand that recovering sustainably will take intense management and cooperation,” Tuccillo explained. “That’s why the EU is in a particularly good position to demonstrate that economic prosperity and environmental prosperity are both possible. I’m excited to see that the two aren’t siloed anymore. The approach to policymaking has fundamentally shifted. For example, the European Commission requires grant proposals to be developed among multiple constituents. As a result, I’m seeing levels of cooperation I’ve never seen before.”

And it’s not only intergovernmental cooperation that has evolved. Collaboration between governments and industry has, too. Tuccillo explained, “Before, ‘industry engagement’ was just lobbying. Today we actually have relationships and collaborative exchanges with government leaders. That ensures we come up with plans that are practical, executable, and actually embraced by governments rather than resisted.”

For more, watch the video of Tuccillo’s fireside chat here.

“The ‘IT for good’ message we’ve been sharing for years is finally resonating.” Click to tweet

Highlights from Dean Nelson’s fireside chat with Daniela Torres, Sustainable Resources, Climate and Resilience Officer at ICLEI

Daniela Torres grew up in the awe-inspiring location that is Quito, Ecuador. Her father, a scientist and an economist, worked for the Ministry of Environment, and encouraged her to pursue the then-new field of environmental engineering. “I really loved how environmental engineering combined chemistry, statistics, biology, and resource management all in one degree,” Torres said. “Plus it was a new field which was motivating.”

Today, Torres leads the sustainable resources and climate technical team at ICLEI, a global nonprofit organization that was formed out of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The organization’s members are cities, and its mandate is to help those local governments implement sustainability measures across the value chain – including waste, energy, and water.

Torres and her team are currently focused on smart city infrastructure development. As part of that effort they’re working with Google to identify and promote climate action projects in cities. She explained, “Google is able to quantify emissions from city transport and buildings, and also solar roof potential to give referential values that cities and others can see. We are working with them to foster development of projects in 12 cities so far.”

It’s not only about energy, of course. “You have to do a lifecycle assessment,” Torres explained. “Every activity has positive and negative impacts. The important thing is to understand and be able to manage the impacts. So a lifecycle assessment for data centers measures not only energy but water impact, land use impact, etc. seen from the perspective of data centers as part of a broader system.”

For more, watch the video of Torres’s fireside chat here.

“You have to do a lifecycle assessment. Every activity has positive and negative impacts.” Click to tweet

Highlights from the panel discussion with Ayotunde Coker, Tom Moran, Lovisa Hagelberg, and Debbie Hobbs

In a virtual panel discussion with Dean Nelson, industry leaders from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Nigeria shared their perspectives on sustainability. These are highlights from the conversation. For more, watch the video of the panel discussion here.

Tom Moran, EMEA Sustainability Lead at CenturyLink in the Netherlands: “Within most organizations, sustainability starts with compliance; these are the things we have to do to keep ourselves out of trouble. Then we move to operational efficiency, where I can point to economic benefit. The third stage is innovation, taking the things you’re doing in your own world and delivering value to rest of the world – e.g., delivering cooling savings to customers.”

“Everything has positive and negative impacts. Our role as builders of the digital age is both an infrastructure piece and what technology as a whole does for society. We have to remind ourselves that we’re a positive impact and at the same time be aspirational and not just do compliance and efficiency but also push radical innovation. We’re in companies and an industry that has proven it can drive radical innovation. Like Greta Thunberg says, ‘You need to act like your house is on fire, because it is.’”

Debbie Hobbs, Group Director of Sustainable Business at ISG in the UK: “The only way we’re going to crack this is to all work together. We can look at other sectors. How has the office sector worked together to net zero carbon buildings? Other sectors are working to improve efficiency. It’s always good to throw in healthy competition. We need a framework for scoring data centers on sustainability. LEED is not widely used. Can we make one that works like a standard integrated into a whole area both in terms of smart cities and social value? Work with data center owners and specifiers so they understand what this is about and show them the benefits so they’re not frightened by it.”

Ayotunde Coker, CEO at Rack Centre in Nigeria: “Total data center capacity in Africa (with a population of 1.3 billion) is 150 MW. For comparison, Amsterdam (population of less than 1 million) has 320 MW. Forty percent of the data center capacity in Africa is concentrated in South Africa. But there will be tremendous growth across the continent. As companies de-risk their supply chains post-COVID, more global outsourcing will move to Africa. The central part of Africa is a fantastic location between the Americas and Asia. Many people in Africa speak English. Companies here, like Microsoft and others, talk about the agility and smartness of people in Africa. Combined with a generally younger population, we should see these things come together to drive exponential growth here.”

Lovisa Hagelberg, BDM and Sustainability Champion at CBRE in Sweden: “I want to be proud of what I’m leaving behind. In my work I can see how sustainability best practices are deployed in data centers around the world. Sustainability matters to our clients and our clients’ clients. Studies show people are willing to pay more for cloud services if they’re sustainable…I see challenges with regard to demand response in the grid and how to integrate volatile energy sources. We have the challenge of needing to be reliable but also flexible and fast. But there are some good solutions and when we work together we can get much better results.”

“The only way we’re going to crack this is to all work together.” Click to tweet

Highlights from the #IMSustainability working session

As we did at the Americas and APAC Summits, we facilitated a working session where attendees provided feedback on our five proposed Sustainability Strategy initiatives. The feedback from the Summits will be combined with ideas already generated by the Sustainability Committee to develop an Action Plan, which will be shared publicly during the Global UN Sustainability Summit in September 2020.

These are highlights from the EMEA working session, which was facilitated by Dean Nelson and Patrik Öhlund, who is the iMasons Sustainability Committee Chair. For a comprehensive overview of each of the proposed initiatives, check out Our Sustainability Vision: Every Click Improves the Future.

Initiative 1

Unify Industry on Sustainability Vision and Actions

Recommendations from attendees included:

  • “If there was an iMasons green pledge, should it be endorsed by individuals or companies?” Another attendee replied, “Both!”
  • “The boardroom is key.” Öhlund replied, “Yes these decisions start in the boardroom but boards of directors are people.”
  • “Microsoft and others’ visions of carbon negative impact are led from the top. That empowers those below to be creative and innovate to achieve those goals.”
  • “Companies in our sector are doing so many great things, and iMasons can amplify and aggregate those. What can iMasons do to help us do more together?”

Initiative 2

Make Renewable Energy Available Everywhere

Recommendations from attendees included:

  • “The challenge is that some locales do not have the favorable conditions for sea or wind power and even PV [solar] is constrained.”
  • “We should add grid to the discussion. We now are not able to sell our own generated energy locally and selling to the grid is regulated.”
  • “Unified Smart Grids. Share the sun from Florida over to the Clouds in Seattle.”
  • “Many companies in our industry are members of REBA, the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, aggregating demand to drive supply. Can IM cooperate with REBA?”

Initiative 3

Define Sustainable Data Center Framework

Recommendations from attendees included:

  • “Would a sustainable data center framework result in a label? Would the market pay a premium for a labeled data center?” Another attendee replied, “The CEEDA accreditation is around $40,000, less than the price of a CRAC!”
  • “The industry needs to quickly adopt a sustainability standard and evolve from there. Get started using one standard and then evolve it. Don't spend years and years to come up with the perfect standard.” Another attendee replied, “Yes, which is why the EN 50600 standard is already on its second edition.”
  • Nelson added, “This isn’t a potential standard but a guideline. What is the right bar? Not just design or operation but entire lifecycle. Also supply chain, etc. The most efficient data center in the world is the one that’s not built.”

Initiative 4

Drive Sustainability Through Procurement

Recommendations from attendees included:

  • “Procurement is already included in the EU Cloud Code of Conduct and was part of the EURECA project for the public sector.”
  • “One of the challenges is customer demand. Customers still want us to build the data center with generators and we can’t use the UPS for internal to give back to the grid. So customer teaching is also important.”
  • “No one would buy from a vendor that has a terrible on-time delivery just because they’re cheaper. They should have the same metrics for vendors’ sustainability.”

Initiative 5

Achieve Radical Efficiency Through Innovation

Nelson launched the conversation saying, “Designing under scarcity drives radical efficiency. For example, assume you have no more water or energy. Use what’s already built. Leverage circular economy. Challenge every paradigm.”

Recommendations from attendees included:

  • “We don't need to imagine false constraints – they exist today!”
  • “Incentivize innovation. Otherwise there is no point.”
  • “Moonshots are an interesting way to go.” Another attendee added, “For example, a scientist is working on using LNG as cold energy storage to cool data centres.”

Get involved

When Dean Nelson asked John Tuccillo if he had a message for his fellow iMasons, he said, “Get involved. We all have intellectual capital we can put forward into the agenda of solving humanity’s challenges.”

If you’d like to get involved, whether by joining the Sustainability Committee or just sharing your insights – you can do so via the new iMasons app. (If you don’t yet have the app, learn about it here. It’s free for all members.)

Learn more

Check out these blog posts for insights from the Spring 2020 Advisory Council meeting and Americas and APAC Global Member Summits:


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