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Carbon emissions driving cloud buying decisions - Gartner

By Shannon Williams
Wed 26 Jan 2022

Carbon emissions are becoming a top criterion in cloud buying decisions, according to Gartner. 

By 2025, the carbon emissions of hyperscale cloud services will be a top three criterion in cloud purchase decisions, the analyst firm says.

As environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities and reporting received growing levels of enterprise attention, more than 90% of organisations increased their investments in sustainability programs since the start of the pandemic compared to investments in 2017.

“Leading providers of cloud infrastructure and platform services are increasingly focusing on how they can disrupt higher-level business, compliance, societal and environmental issues,” says Ed Anderson, distinguished research vice president at Gartner.

“Hyperscalers are aggressively investing in sustainable cloud operations and delivery, aspiring to eventually achieve net zero emissions within the decade, or sooner," he says.

"Gartner expects increased availability of tools that help organisations calculate and reduce their carbon emissions through effective use of cloud services, similar to tools that assist in optimising cloud spending today.”

The top 10 largest cloud providers (by revenue) accounted for 70% of all IT spending on cloud infrastructure, platform and application services, according to Gartner. Cloud sustainability initiatives will start with the leading cloud providers, which are some of the world’s largest data center operators and critical to reducing IT-related carbon emissions.

“While essentially all cloud providers have sustainability initiatives in place, their progress in meeting carbon reduction goals and strategies for achieving net zero carbon emissions varies wildly,” says Anderson. 

“Sustainability metrics and workload placement tools are still immature and not always transparent, making it difficult for organisations to fully and accurately assess true sustainability impacts of their cloud usage today," he says.

“As stakeholders continue to push organisations to improve their sustainability posture, the more progressive providers will share their sustainability information publicly. Increasingly, stakeholder pressure will prompt them to include it in company disclosures, compliance and reporting.”

Gartner’s 2022 Board of Directors survey showed that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues were among the top strategic priorities for 32% of boards, representing a 100% increase in interest over the 2021 survey.

Last month, a whitepaper from IDC and Baidu revealed AI technology is set to contribute up to 70% of carbon emissions reductions by 2060.

The whitepaper estimates that AI-related technologies will contribute to reducing more than 35 billion tons of carbon emissions from now to 2060.

With the title of 'Smart Carbon Emission Reduction, Inspire the Transformation to Green Energy', the report draws on IDC's research in the field of ICT and artificial intelligence, as well as the practices of Baidu and its industry partners in related fields.

According to the whitepaper, the path to realising carbon neutrality must be technology-intensive, and breakthroughs in AI technology will be implemented in various industries through ICT infrastructure combined with carbon reduction technologies.

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