Technology fuels every aspect of our lives: professional and personal; from medical to educational to entertainment and beyond. Behind it all is a remarkable global matrix of IT infrastructure and equipment making it all possible, one that is also leaving a very large carbon footprint on Earth in the process.
The Shift Project 2019, estimated that the global Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry is currently on track to grow its share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from today’s ~4% to nearly 8% by 2025. That increase makes sense, as demand for data and digital services is expected to grow exponentially over the coming years, and global internet traffic expected to double by 2022 to 4.2 trillion gigabytes. However, doubling our carbon impact in the next 4 years is not a goal any of us would be proud to achieve. Plus, we can’t ignore our industry’s role in producing more than 50 million tons of e-waste annually, a number which is also growing at that same disturbing pace.
Rightfully in 2021, the IT industry needs to put itself in the driver’s seat on climate action. The massive energy footprint of cloud computing enables the data center sector to see both sides of consumer demand and resource supply. Technology leaders in the Fortune 500, recognizing that growth must be handled sustainably and responsibly, have made a good start by committing to a series of net zero carbon goals from 2030 to 2045. But we’ve already seen that a shift to renewable energy is no match for the industry growth rates described above.
Now is the time to pull out all the stops on carbon reduction, mitigation and offset innovation. Addressing embedded carbon in the entire value chain requires intense focus and mitigation; groundbreaking approaches like circular economic models for data center infrastructure, as well as sustainable and carbon-free solutions in design, manufacturing, use and reuse. And substantive change will require collective effort on a global scale, communities and industries working together to drive fundamental shifts in product configuration, business management, and accounting principles.
To that end, in 2021 the OCP Global Summit is introducing a dedicated Sustainability track. The inspiration for this is simple – the Open Compute Project (OCP) needs a common platform of collaboration that aligns with a low carbon economy, society, and planet. Many organizations working toward net-zero are doing so by operating in silos and in a closed manner. Unlike the OCP, their processes, insights, and economies of scale are seldomly shared with all constituents and implemented in the interest of the collective solution. Fortunately, that’s where we shine: adding sustainability frameworks to open technology platforms across hardware, software, and data will create the critical backbone that enables sustainability to become the business norm.
We invite all OCP members to submit proposals for guidelines, best practices, metrics, common challenges and opportunities for collaboration. Keeping the end goal of accelerated carbon reduction and positive transformation in mind, help us explore processes, insights, and frameworks that can be implemented for modern IT infrastructure and data centers. It’s by working together that we can efficiently transition away from take / make / waste into a regenerative, circular economic models (reuse / repair / refurbish) that is beneficial to businesses, our industry and the planet.
Share your ideas on the challenges common to all of our organizations:
- How to more effectively and efficiently reduce carbon impact?
- How to apply and benefit from circular economic principles at every stage?
- How to design for circularity?
- How to integrate sustainability practices into business planning and operations?
- How to select reusable and recyclable materials?
- How to guide and collaborate on manufacturing choices, and engage with the supply chain?
- How to measure, track and report results?
Whether you are a beginner in sustainability science or an advanced practitioner in circular data center equipment and design, whether you are associated with electronics recycling or have an open innovation that can improve reusability at a rack level system, we want to hear from you. The possibilities for collaboration are immense and the promise of tech for good is here at the 2021 OCP Global Summit.
The 2021 OCP Global Summit will be a hybrid event, both in person and virtual, and will take place November 9 – 10, 2021 at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, CA. To learn more about the Open Compute Project, to see how to get involved, and to attend or exhibit at the upcoming Summit, visit https://www.opencompute.org/summit/global-summit
Written by Fahmida Bangert, VP of Sustainability at ITRenew, and Cochair of Lifecycle/Circularity at OCP sustainability forum.