The data center industry, propelled by AI and machine learning demands, is rapidly expanding while aiming for net-zero environmental impact. In response to this, Schneider Electric™ has introduced an updated and standardised framework for reporting environmental metrics.
The updated whitepaper introduces several significant enhancements. It provides a comprehensive breakdown of 28 specific metrics distributed across five critical areas: energy, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), water management, waste management, and local ecosystem preservation (i.e., biodiversity conservation) that data centers should carefully assess. This detailed outline offers a comprehensive view of the sustainability performance of data centers.
One notable improvement is the refined segmentation of GHG emissions metrics into scopes 1, 2, and 3, offering a more detailed analysis of carbon emissions. This segmentation allows data centers to gain a more nuanced understanding of their carbon footprint and identify areas for improvement.
Another valuable addition is the inclusion of the “Server utilization (ITEUsv)” metric in the energy category. This metric guides data centers in optimizing server usage to achieve the same level of information processing while reducing the number of servers. This not only enhances energy efficiency but also contributes to resource conservation.
In the water category, the whitepaper introduces “Water replenishment” as a new metric. This addition emphasizes responsible water stewardship practices, encouraging data centers to focus on replenishing the water resources they consume.
To address environmental concerns, the whitepaper includes “E-waste” and “Battery” metrics within the “Waste” category, complementing existing metrics like “Waste generated” and “Waste diversion rate.” This expansion addresses the growing concerns related to electronic waste and battery disposal.
In the Local ecosystem category, the whitepaper expands its focus by incorporating metrics such as “Total land use,” “Land-use intensity,” and “Outdoor noise.” These metrics measure both the direct and indirect impacts of data center operations on biodiversity, reflecting a commitment to preserving local ecosystems.
Furthermore, the whitepaper recommends a holistic approach for mapping the maturity level of each metric, drawing inspiration from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
The whitepaper categorises the metrics into three reporting stages: Beginning, Advanced, and Leading. The Beginning stage includes six fundamental metrics for reporting energy, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions, the core requirements for every data centre. The Advanced stage introduces more detailed metrics in energy, water, greenhouse gas emissions, and introduces two new categories: waste and the local ecosystem. The Leading stage provides even more granular metrics within the existing categories, encouraging continuous improvement in sustainability practises.
“Data centre operators are using a variety of different metrics making it harder to compare and benchmark sustainability progress and performance,” said Pankaj Sharma, Executive Vice President, Secure Power Division and Data Centre Business at Schneider Electric. “We need a standardised data-driven approach to align on where to improve and what to prioritise, as well as ways to identify and root out organisational reporting discrepancies in order to meet the expectations of stakeholders and governmental pledges. Through more credible and comparable data, we will be able to establish industry benchmarks for others to make valuable environmental changes. Without a unilateral approach to reporting, data centre organisations are at risk of losing vital time and efforts as regulatory requirements continue to grow in importance. As a sign of our commitment to leading the data centre industry on sustainability initiatives, and in response to requests from our customers, we revised our original framework updating it with a newer set of metrics for organisations to progress their reporting.”
“The data centre industry is advancing rapidly and delivering innovative solutions at scale to support the world’s growing digital transformation. Across all of our service lines, Iron Mountain recognises that without careful consideration to a comprehensive set of benchmarks, we’re at risk of creating increased environmental impact,” said Mark Kidd, Executive Vice President & GM, Asset Lifestyle Management & Data Centres at Iron Mountain. “The performance measures within Schneider Electric’s whitepaper defines a full landscape that should be considered, and the addition of E-waste metrics is timely and increasingly critical. Aligning on measures and methodology, and keeping visibility to the full extent of what should be measured, will help all data centre providers advance, collectively, towards the sustainable digital future we need.”
Commenting on the importance of establishing standard benchmarks, Vlad Gabalov, Director at Omdia, Head of the Cloud and Data Research Practise said, “Measuring sustainability in data centres is not just an option, it’s a responsibility we owe to our planet and future generations. By quantifying our environmental impact, we empower ourselves to make informed decisions that lead to meaningful change. However, isolated efforts are not enough. To truly drive progress across the industry, we must unite under a standardised framework. This framework will not only guide our actions but also enable us to compare, learn, and innovate collectively. Through measurement and standardisation, we can pave the way for a greener, more sustainable digital future.”