Climate change: The role and responsibility of IT
The year of 2015 is going to end with a climate agreement signed in Paris. While global warming as such and the need to limit it is no longer disputed one might argue whether the negotiation results are sufficient or not. From a scientific point of view it might be easy to proof that the results are insufficient but from a political point of view the signal is definitively strong and should not be underestimated. But however one might judge the results – climate change will not be stopped in negotiations alone. We all have the responsibility to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But what does this mean if I work in IT? A lot – and that is why SAP supports the UN campaign Data for Climate Action
Running more sustainable thanks to IT
IT has two roles in this context. On the one hand IT can help to reduce the consumption of material and energy. It can help to makes resource consumption and related emissions visible and based on this it can help to manage reduction efforts. For more information how business applications from SAP can help to run more sustainable please have a look here. Next to standard solutions for environmental reporting and energy management it is also of interest to mention that the internet of things in combination with predictive analytics of big data can help to better understand how and why material and energy was consumed and how the consumption can be reduced.
Recently I came across a nice example where SAP Lumira helps the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation to gain better oversight into their resources, so they can be more effective in their conservation efforts. And with Precision Farming IT can enable farmers to harvest more with less feeding more people while protecting our natural resources. Precision Farming points us to the role business networks can play to become more sustainable. Another example for that is TwoGo by SAP our mobile, cloud-based ride share program enabling corporate carpooling. This award winning solution processed 2000 ride requests per day avoiding rides six times the distance between earth and moon this year.
Running IT more sustainable in the green cloud
The above list of examples of how IT helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be extended endlessly. On the other hand IT is also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions since it is less clean than many people think. The energy consumption of all data centers in the world is of similar size than the fuel consumption in Air traffic. This also hits SAP. Since with SAP´s transition to cloud computing, we operate more and more IT systems instead of our customers and spend energy for this operations our customers would have spent otherwise. But how can we achieve then our goal to lower the net greenhouse gases of our business operations to 2000 levels by the year 2020 in this situation?
Increasing the energy efficiency of our data centers is one answer. But although growing our computing capacity at a much higher rate our energy consumption grow by around 3% from 173 to 179 Gigawatt hours in 2014. So increasing the energy efficiency is a lot but not enough. Since 2014 we also run our own data centers fully on renewable energy, mostly from wind turbines. Emissions are compensated through renewable energy certificates. Since 2015, SAP’s net data center emissions in Europe and worldwide are completely balanced out at zero. And that means that customers using the SAP cloud can also be sure that they reduce their carbon footprint of their IT operations. For all these efforts SAP received the 2015 Datacenter Sustainability Award at the Datacloud Europe global congress and exhibition in Monaco.
Like the chemical industry the IT sector is both – part of the problem and the solution. And like the chemical industry with its responsible Care Initiative SAP is committed to make the world run more sustainable to improve people´s lives making us number 1 in the software sector of Dow Jones sustainability index the 9th year in a row.