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A Critical, Shared Mission: Leading the Charge for Zero Carbon Clouds
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By Nicola Acutt
By Nicola Acutt, vice president of the Environmental, Social, Governance Office of the CTO at VMware
“It is an issue that corporations have responsibility for, and therefore we should be making ambitious commitments. We should challenge ourselves and one another to go bigger and go faster as it relates to our climate commitments.”
— Brian Janous, general manager for energy and renewables at Microsoft
The time to act is now. The most recent assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nation’s body for assessing the science used to monitor climate change, is a sobering call to action: The world has less than a decade to cut carbon emissions in half to avoid the most dire consequences.
From its initial efforts to help enterprises virtualize their IT infrastructure, VMware has worked not only to enable innovation, but also to lessen the environmental impact of data centers. It’s a sustainability legacy that aligns with the promise of the cloud and the move from costly, on-premises hardware at every business to a global ecosystem of cloud provider partners operating efficient, high-performance data centers that make the public cloud a reality.
It’s our sustainability legacy that led us to create VMware Cloud Verified, a global community of highly skilled, fully validated partners that enable enterprises of all kinds to move to the cloud with confidence and, in the process, realize the inherent resource savings that are possible. Our more than 300 Cloud Verified partners have implemented a software-defined data center using the full suite of VMware’s compute, storage, and network virtualization technologies to greatly streamline their IT infrastructure – saving energy and reducing carbon emissions while providing customers with a technology platform that they know and trust.
Our VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative builds on that success to unite the world’s leading cloud providers – organizations on the leading edge of a global effort to create accessible, high-performance, zero carbon cloud infrastructure. Together, our goal is to help organizations radically decrease the emissions and carbon footprint associated with their digital operations and the business operations that rely on them by choosing a software-defined approach enabled by partners whose data centers are powered with renewable, zero carbon energy sources.
It’s an effort that’s succeeding. In the six months since the creation of the VMware Zero Carbon Committed initiative, we have grown from five initial launch partners – sustainability stars ATEA, Equinix, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure and OVHcloud – to a network of more than 25 providers capable of empowering organizations to immediately decrease their carbon footprint and help address climate change.
Our vision and commitment is that by 2030 all VMware public clouds will be powered with zero carbon from data centers using 100% renewable energy. Notably, there’s no question that the demand for sustainable clouds exists. According to Science Based Targets, more than 2,100 leading companies have already committed to achieve verified net zero emissions for their own operations and that of their supply chain. Furthermore, Accenture ranked sustainable clouds as number one of 25 cloud trends in 2021 and beyond – finding that 80% of consumers view sustainability as the most important consideration when evaluating organizations.
At VMworld 2021, I had the privilege to host a panel with three Zero Carbon Committed partners, to learn more about their work to address climate change. These prestigious sustainability leaders included Brian Janous, general manager for energy and renewables at Microsoft; Jennifer Ruch, director of sustainability at Equinix; and Chris Talbott, cloud sustainability lead at Google.
What follows are just a few of the many recommendations these luminaries had to offer IT professionals, teams, and organizations that are committed to making a difference.
Start Somewhere: There must be a beginning in the move from aspiration to action. Ruch stresses that IT professionals shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Measurement of energy and carbon footprint is a good place to start, with an initial step being to determine what your organization’s impact is.
Make sure sustainability leaders and technical engineering teams work together: Talbott notes that carbon reduction goals need to be woven into the core dialogue around traditional technology benchmarks like resiliency, security, cost, performance, and price. The social cost of carbon associated with the creation and use of technology should also be considered.
Make sustainability a core value and go big: Janous shares that teams at Microsoft are rarely disappointed when they make an ambitious commitment. Change is required now, and he encourages all IT leaders to challenge themselves and one another to go bigger and go faster as it relates to their climate commitments.
All three experts also agree that sustainability must be given a seat at the table, and that every effort needs to be made to make it easy for organizations to make climate-friendly decisions. For example, Google’s green leaf logo makes it easy for IT leaders and developers to choose a sustainable option when selecting services and solutions.
Notably, they also stress that the cloud is ideally qualified to make a positive impact – with the inherent use of virtualization being one of the many ways it maximizes the value of existing resources and hardware. The scalability of the cloud and efficiency go hand-in-hand.
“There has been a major shift in customer expectations on the role of corporations beyond maximizing value for shareholders and beyond return on capital,” says Janous. “We all have a part to play. It’s not just individual action and it’s not just corporate, federal, state, or policy action. All of them are necessary. I’m very optimistic given where we are today that the next decade will be pretty significant in terms of the progress we can make in the IT industry.”
For information on how to become a VMware Zero Carbon Committed partner, or to find a Zero Carbon Committed provider who can help your organization reduce its carbon footprint, visit VMware’s searchable provider portal at https://cloud.vmware.com/providers/zero-carbon
About the Author
Nicola J. Acutt, Ph.D., is the Vice President, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), in the Office of the CTO at VMware. A change maker, thought leader, and strategist with experience spanning business, government, academia, and nonprofits, Acutt approaches ESG as a business imperative and is committed to creating a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient future.
Acutt joined VMware in 2010 to launch the VMware Foundation and lead VMware’s Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability functions. In December 2020, she was put in charge of the company’s newly formed ESG Office, where she shapes ESG strategy across operations, product portfolio, and customer engagement. Prior to joining VMware, Acutt was a faculty member at the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Earlier in her career, she worked as a consultant to the South African Government on natural resource policy. She conducted research at the Center for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. She also has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Berkeley.