TechFire finds cost of sustainability a struggle financially, morally

Webinar discusses real costs of going Green
Image: Shutterstock

14 March 2023

Ireland has a national target for carbon reduction of 51% by 2030, yet businesses are often unclear as to who is responsible for internal sustainability policies or how to manage progress.

According to a survey by and Pure Storage 25% of IT professionals either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that sustainability measures were a primary criteria in their company’s sourcing decisions.

By the same measure, 42% of respondents said sustainability mattered to them on a personal level.

Speaking at a recent TechFire webinar, editor Niall Kitson was joined by Mike Roan, EMEA senior director of systems engineering for Pure Storage, and Michael Kennedy, manager, cloud networks and security infrastructure, RTE to discuss what next when personal and commercial imperatives collide.

Technological shifts

Roan noted that despite shifts in technology and the exponential growth of data, there remains a place in the market for hard disk drives. However, as the price of solid state drives comes down there will be savings to be made on power consumption and emmissions. Roan also noted that many companies’ move towards data reduction would also yield savings and help reduce the environmental impact of storage arrays.

Roan also said organisations were assessing use of water cooling systems in data centres at a time when there are millions of people living in ‘water stressed’ conditions.

“You can’t just put a data centre whever you want and expect it to be ok. There are moral implications,” he said.

Roan continued that there organisations were also undergoing a shift in focus towards achieving sustainability goals but that scepticism was required to balance cost savings against a Green agenda.

“About 12 to 24 months ago a little bit of that was lip service,” he said. “When you delve under the covers you’ll see a lot of organisations are taking it more seriously now.”

RTE’s Kennedy said the broadcaster had actually exceeded targets set out by the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan. He added that the overall lifecycle cost of equipment had to be taken into account in assessing ESG goals as upfront spend can be more prudent considering the long term.

“From a procurement perspective there is a line item saying ‘tell us about your environmental credentials’… but one thing we don’t look at is the total cost of owning an object. We look at the energy cost of storage, we don’t look at the carbon cost of melting the metal that goes into it. A lot of the electronics we buy contain rare Earth metals that have a very high environmental impact and that really doesn’t get factored in.”

Kennedy also noted the difference in life cycle between solid state and HDD drives, saying he would not leave spinning disks in use as long as SSDs owing to increased risk of failure. He continued to make the point that carbon-intensive data centre materials like concrete were not being factored into their total operating costs.

In terms of competition for tenders, Kennedy said sustainability accounted for about 5-10% of the scoring but that functionality still came first in considerations. “I’m not going to buy the most energy effecient solution in the world if it can’t do the job… Energy is a small element of the overall criteria and I’m not sure I’d want it to be the deciding factor between two solutions, either.”

Kennedy added that as companies mature and present more data on their sustainability efforts the amount of weight given to ESG in tender may increase.

“You will see over time that the dollar cost taking less of a role compared to the environmental cost informing a higher percentage of our decisions,” he said.

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