01 Sep 2022

Data centres enabling sustainable economic growth (Guest blog from Digital Realty)

Data centres will fuel the future digital economy, making sustainability a key consideration for operators.

Data centres have become the central nervous system of the global digital economy and are a key enabler of change. Harnessing the power of data can help businesses to grow, innovate, and scale the technologies required to tackle complex societal challenges.

Delivering on our sustainability goals and preserving the natural environment for future generations is a key priority for the whole tech sector. At Digital Realty (DLR) we’re committed to minimising our impact on the environment and are working with our customers, investors, employees, and the communities where we operate to achieve that goal.

In 2020 we set aggressive science-based carbon emissions targets with the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTi), becoming the first global data centre organisation of our size and scale to do so. This is in addition to long established energy and water efficiency targets. We have committed to reducing our scope 1 and 2 emissions (direct and indirect company emissions) by 68% and scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions in our value chain) by 24% by 2030.

The European Carbon Neutral Data Centre Pact (CNDCP), an initiative created and agreed with the European Commission (EC) to make data centres in Europe climate neutral by 2030, is something we see as a key enabler for the sector. The self-regulatory initiative sets ambitious goals that will facilitate Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy by setting measurable targets in areas like energy efficiency, purchase agreements for 100% clean energy, water conservation, and recycling heat, to name a few. We are proud signatories of this initiative.

We have looked across the breadth of our business to see how and where we have the biggest impact. We’ve identified three areas of focus:

  • By designing and constructing more sustainable data centres
  • By finding new ways to power them
  • By driving continuous improvement in how we operate them

The results are something we are proud to showcase:

Emissions reductions:

  • In France, we’ve reached carbon neutrality (scopes 1 and 2), becoming the first to achieve this. We maintained this in 2021 and are committed to keeping a clean slate through 2030.
  • We were the first data centre to issue a green bond and have become the largest US REIT issuer of green bonds with ~$6B issued since 2015.

Powering our data centres

  • As of 2021, 64% of our business globally is supplied with renewable energy; 100% for our European portfolio and our US colocation facilities.
  • 2.4 million metric tonnes of CO2e avoided in 2021, comparable to the energy demand of over 450,000 US homes.
  • We have invested in renewable energy infrastructure in the form of solar farms in Kenya, Greece and Switzerland, which power our data centres. Onsite solar has been built in our South Korean facilities.

Design and construction

  • In 2021, DLR became the first operator to reach one gigawatt (GW) of IT capacity certified in accordance with sustainable building standards. Half (50%) of our global portfolio has a sustainable certification and 60% of certifications achieved are gold level and above.

A more detailed breakdown of our sustainability impacts can be found on our website here.

We hope that our example can be used to show others in and outside of the industry that a sustainable transition is possible and a good long-term business strategy. We are continually looking for new ways to improve our positive impact on the planet, in line with our net zero ambitions and commitments to sustainability more generally.

Digital Realty – enabling sustainable economic growth


techUK - Committed to Climate Action

Visit our Climate Action Hub to learn more or to register for regular updates.

By 2030, digital technology can cut global emissions by 15%. Cloud computing, 5G, AI and IoT have the potential to support dramatic reductions in carbon emissions in sectors such as transport, agriculture, and manufacturing. techUK is working to foster the right policy framework and leadership so we can all play our part. For more information on how techUK can support you, please visit our Climate Action Hub and click ‘contact us’.




Related topics