Data Center Sustainability Scorecard
When software applications try to calculate their environmental footprint, they eventually require data from the infrastructure in which their servers are housed. However, this infrastructure does not make that information available today. To move the public discussion forward, we have created a sustainability scorecard for data centers that would make the required information towards their own customers, enabling them to determine the environmental footprint of their IT infrastructure and software applications.
The scorecard below is based on the existing Life Cycle Assessment methodology and has been suggested to the European Commission for the inclusion as required reporting metrics for data centers in the Energy Efficiency Directive.
Read the summary of the policy event we co-hosted with EPEE to make the sustainability metrics from our scorecard a reporting requirement (public or to their own customers) for most data center facilities. Read it on our blog →
Some information is till lacking to calculate the scorecard
Based on our taxonomy, the data center is part of digital infrastructure which produces digital resources. To determine the environmental impact of the produced resources the scorecard is a key component:
environmental impact of data center (scorecard) + environmental impact of IT equipment (environmental product declaration/life cycle assessment divided by the resources produced = environmental impact per resource.
Let’s look closely on the information that is needed to create the scorecard:
- Information on environmental impact of the data center facility from the construction phase (building)
- Environmental impact of all data center-specific equipment (cooling, UPS, backup generator, switchgear, ...)
- Operational resource & power consumption (such as water, backup generator fuel, electricity, ...)
- Emission factor of the electrical power consumed during operations
On the first point, existing frameworks such as LEED and BREEM already outline approaches to gather and assess the information needed for the scorecard, based on the life cycle assessment framework.
On the data center equipment, we can see a large information gap, which is mainly due to the fact that most manufacturers are not publishing Life Cycle Assessment reports (LCAs) or Environmental Product Declarations (EPD, see our knowledge article for definitions). We tackle this problem with our Open Data Hub creating an open database of LCAs and EPDs for the equipment found inside the data center.
The local emission factor of the electricity used by the data center is an issue that many grid operators and energy companies are working on, and is a dependency that can not be solved without information from the energy grid. Since this is in progress, there is no concerted industry action needed right now.