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Focusing on Five Initiatives

Dean Nelson was joined by Patrik Öhlund and Eddie Schutter to propose initiatives that will deliver the vision. After describing each of the five initiatives — “the programs through which we live our values and make progress on the vision” — Patrik solicited feedback from the 200+ Summit attendees, who participated via the chat function on Zoom.

The collaborative working session was very successful in leveraging the collective brain power of the iM community to tackle our most complex challenge yet.

Initiative 1

Unify Industry on Sustainability Vision and Actions

The digital infrastructure industry lacks a common sustainability vision. We do not speak in one voice to vendors, policymakers, or the public. These mixed messages and uncoordinated actions cause confusion and slow progress.

Initiative description
Establish an industry-wide commitment to a common vision and unified plans, compounding the effect of community actions.

Summit conversation highlights:

  • “This is critical. The broader industry must work together to develop the goals and to share the data and details—to ultimately improve our condition on a global scale.”
  • “Industry-led unification by establishing a governing body with established metrics that can be shared by customers, vendors, and partners.”
  • “We have to standardize on how we measure our data so everyone can benchmark against it.”
  • “It has to be about more than renewables. It should be inclusive of embodied carbon.”

Initiative 2

Make Renewable Energy Available Everywhere

We lack 24×7 grid-scale baseload renewable energy solutions. Large companies invest independently in renewable energy rather than combining regional demand to provide market visibility, enabling investors and regulators to define and implement frameworks, incentives, and solutions to support it.

Initiative description
Work together across the industry and with policymakers to build capacity and enable location-based access to cost-effective renewable energy in all markets globally.

Summit conversation highlights:

  • “Frankly, I think this needs to change. Make renewable energy available for everyone.”
  • “It’s important to make green and sustainable solutions easier to consume and deploy. It’s a big part of getting people excited to leverage and champion sustainable solutions.”
  • “If we show that the demand for renewable energy exists at scale across verticals the discussion around cost will dissolve, leading to investments by utility providers to move production to renewables. This is supply and demand at its finest.”
  • “The biggest challenge here is governmental policy and entrenched non-renewable businesses. Sustainable power availability has to be an important government relations point for iMasons and the companies members work for.”

Initiative 3

Define Sustainable Data Center Framework

We lack a common, industry-wide, end-to-end view of what makes a data center sustainable throughout its life cycle.

Initiative description
Establish an industry best practice framework for the design, build, and operation of a full lifecycle-aware sustainable data center to help guide owner/operators, providers, supply chain professionals, and policy makers.

Conversation highlights:

  • “This may be the initiative where iMasons can make the greatest impact. We can publish whitepapers and reference architectures that can become industry standards.”
  • “Expand measurements to include water, land usage/density, carbon footprint, energy efficiency, product life cycle. Reuse/reduce/recycle.”
    I have found that the public battles for PUE missed the point. The industry average for PUE was as high as 3.0 back in 2000, and now it’s closer to 1. The metric has made companies almost three times as efficient. It doesn’t matter whose PUE is lowest — as long as the industry is that much better.”

Initiative 4

Drive Sustainability Through Procurement

RFPs are designed with cost and reliability as priority. Sustainability is secondary. This is counterproductive to designing and implementing sustainable products and solutions.

Initiative description
Leverage our combined purchasing power by aligning procurement specs for high-priority products/services with sustainability values.

Conversation highlights:

  • “Again, this is a place where iMasons can make a real impact, by publishing examples of RFPs and proposal scoring that includes all the elements of sustainability (environmental, economic, and operational).”
  • “At the Department of Energy we are including PUE requirements in cloud contracts and server power supply requirements in server purchases. This should be included in commercial RFPs.”
  • “We see this today in specific pursuits/requirements where customers have made sustainability part of their sourcing organizations. It’s a core tenet, not a secondary option.”
  • “Procurement is both the carrot and the stick. By requiring vendors to improve their sustainability it works on the overall project impact. This does not absolve the operator from operating the data center in a sustainable fashion.”

Initiative 5

Achieve Radical Efficiency Through Innovation

We are using climate-impacting resources because they are plentiful and cheap. Innovation is driven by economic constraints, not by ecological constraints. The pace of innovation is too slow to reverse climate change. Reversing it requires radical new approaches to solve the problem within planetary boundaries.

Initiative description

Challenge old paradigms and inspire smart people, teams, and companies to find new and innovative solutions to radically improve end-to-end efficiency by designing under “artificial constraints.” (Imagine there is no additional energy, memory, or cycles to use. You must use what you have.)

Conversation highlights:

  • “It’s too late to reverse climate change. However, we can stop making things worse. I would be happy with just stopping global warming.”
  • “Innovation is constrained by fear of introducing risk in mission-critical sites. No one wants to be the first! But maybe iMasons can shine some light on those who have tested the waters and succeeded.”
  • “An innovation competition would be a great way to get young people involved in the industry.”

After discussing the five proposed initiatives, Summit attendees were asked to comment on what was missing.

Conversation highlights:

  • “Make sustainability cool again. Appeal to the upcoming generation of engineers, influencers of the future.”
  • “How can we expand ‘sustainability’ beyond environmental impacts to include economics, operations, and social impacts?”
  • “Continue campaigns for increased engagement and consumer education.”
  • “How about a program to motivate innovation leaders to share/open source the best practices?” Others had similar comments: “Maybe an initiative around telling stories about what is working” and “Shared success stories and business cases.”

What’s next

To gather input from the growing number of iMasons members around the world, we’re hosting two more virtual summits in APAC and EMEA. The Global Member Summit APAC – Virtual Event will be held on May 21, and the Global Member Summit EMEA – Virtual Event will be held on May 28. All members are welcome to attend any and all Summits.

Each Summit will have a working session like the one described above where participants are asked to provide feedback on our five Sustainability Strategy initiatives. That feedback will be combined with ideas already generated by the Sustainability Committee to develop an action plan.

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