Organizations increasingly understand the importance of investing in sustainable business practices. But a sustainable business is all but reserved for ‘green’ companies: in 2018, total global sustainability investments exceeded $30 trillion – a 68% increase since 2014 and a tenfold increase compared to 2004. What was once primarily considered a company mission to do social good is now also being acknowledged as an important business imperative. So how can sustainability be a driving force for your business?
Global climate change is undeniably one of the most difficult challenges we as humans have ever faced. In order to avert its worst consequences, urgent action is required. One often overlooked area with enormous potential for improvement: data centers of large companies. On average, data centers consume between 2-3% of the global electricity - contributing approximately 1-2% to the total human carbon output. For comparison: that is roughly as much as the global airline industry. With the expected increases in the number of connected devices and the increasing importance and use of big data, these numbers will only increase in the coming years...
We at Google care about our planet. Since our founding in 1998, sustainability has been a core value for us: not only were we the first major company to become carbon neutral in 2007, we were also the first major company to match our energy use with 100% renewable energy in 2017. Mid September, our CEO Sundar Pichai announced Google’s third decade of climate action: realizing a carbon-free future for everyone. One of the commitments is that we operate on carbon-free energy in all our data centers and campuses, worldwide, 24/7. This means that migrating your existing applications to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) will reduce your organization’s digital carbon footprint.
Aside from migration to our cloud, our Cloud products can also play a pivotal role in achieving your organization’s sustainability goals and its transition to a more sustainable business. Research from U.S. government agencies has shown that computing costs, energy use, and carbon emissions decrease by 65 to 90% when switching to G Suite. Furthermore, hardware innovations, such as our Tensor Processing Units (TPUs), have attributed to the increased efficiency in computing power: compared to five years ago, we now deliver up to seven times more computing power using the same amount of electrical power. And with the use of Machine Learning applications, we have developed smart cooling in our data centers - reducing the energy used for cooling by 30%. Now we are making these solutions available globally. Here is how that works.
Even though sustainable business practices are important in and of themselves, embracing sustainability as a core business principle can also be a driving force for business value, innovation, and optimization. The use of G Suite also allows for a cross-organizational culture of collaboration, which enables companies to identify opportunities for further growth and innovation – especially in the context of the current pandemic-driven imperative to work from home. Thorough data analysis by tools such as GCP’s BigQuery enables organizations to gain better insights into the interactions between elements of an organization’s system. Understanding your data can help in identifying and understanding your organizations’ sustainability challenges, as well as keep track of the execution and progress of your sustainability strategy as a whole.
“We wanted to take advantage of Google’s machine learning technology to minimize Etsy’s carbon footprint and energy usage.”
— Dany Daya, Senior Program Manager for cloud migration at Etsy
The case of online marketplace Etsy shows how putting sustainability at the heart of your business practices can be a driving force for business value, innovation, and optimization. Sustainability has always been core to Etsy. Dany Daya, Senior Program Manager for cloud migration at Etsy: “Sustainability is one of Etsy’s major goals, and we track sustainability just like we track revenue and profit.” Google Cloud’s commitment to carbon neutrality – and especially its emphasis on energy efficiency in AI and ML – fits into this: “We wanted to take advantage of Google’s machine learning technology to minimize Etsy’s carbon footprint and energy usage.”
Etsy completed its migration to Google Cloud in February 2020, moving 5.5 petabytes of data from 2,000 on-premise servers to Google Cloud. Etsy’s migration to Google Cloud has significantly reduced its carbon footprint, with more than 50% savings in compute energy. Through the application of Google Cloud’s committed-use discounts (CUDs) and the use of BigQuery as an optimization tool, Etsy was able to reduce computation costs by 42% and to improve cost predictability. This is not only more cost-effective, but it will also help Etsy meet its goal to reduce energy usage by 25% by 2025. Altogether, the reduction of Etsy’s energy footprint over a five year period is estimated to be equivalent to ~20,000 sewing machines (running 24/7); ~147,000 light bulbs (running 24/7); or ~1,200 dishwashers (running 24/7).
Additionally, Etsy was able to shift 15% of its engineering headcount from managing system infrastructure to focusing on customer experience. This allowed Etsy to run IT experiments with 115% higher speed in 2019 – enabling the company to identify new opportunities to improve the customer experience. This, in turn, led to significant improvements in the time to ship new productsfeatures.
Using Google Cloud services provides added value to your organization, as the Etsy case exemplifies: it enables for the optimization of data processes through AI Platform and ML; can help you lower costs and expenditures through BigQuery; and supports a cross-organizational culture of collaboration within your organization through G Suite – all whilst ensuring that your company’s IT infrastructure is running on the only cloud provider that has achieved 100% renewable energy.