Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business
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Time to take a look at your data supply chain footprint

May 2014

There’s a large elephant in your server room (data centre), writes Eiríkur Hrafnsson, co-founder and coo of GreenQloud.

It’s something you’re not thinking about as you trade emails with customers, update your CRM, share files with colleagues or diligently audit your supply chain. It’s your last thought as you evangelize your remarkable CSR policies, which you promote on your social media channels. It’s the impact all of this business data is having on the environment.

You can easily visualize the global impact of CO2 emissions from your cars and business travel. In any inflight magazine you can find a world map boasting bold crisscrossing lines that connect cities through seemingly endless flight patterns. You are taught to take a look under the hood, if you will, and analyze the supply chain of the products you use. Is this coffee fair trade? Is this packaging recyclable? But how many of you look at your data supply chain and analyze its footprint?

When my business partner, Tryggvi Lárusson, and I founded GreenQloud in 2010, we set out to make cloud computing easier to use. The idea came from our experience trying to implement cloud on our open source e-government platform, Idega. The problem was, the cloud wasn’t easy to use back then and it was also unstable. To us, this presented a major barrier globally.

It probably goes without saying at this point that the international banking crisis, which struck Iceland first, had a deep impact on a company solely focused on bettering government. We suddenly found ourselves with some time on our hands.

 The crash also opened up a huge opportunity for us. As we began tackling hurdles in cloud computing, we also discovered through various research reports furnished by Gartner and McKinsey & Company that the Information Communications Technologies (ICT) industry was a significant contributor to global GHG emissions, which at the time equaled 2% of total global CO2 emissions, then rivaling the aviation industry.

One of the lesser-known but significant aspects of technology hypergrowth is the energy demand it creates. Online data is doubling every other year and so far only 1% of global data has been processed. Every tweet, LinkedIn status, email and file shared requires energy. If you follow the supply chain of your data, like you follow the supply chain of your products, you’ll find that the data centres that process and store your data draw power predominantly from fossil fuel-based electrical grids.

We thought maybe by delivering GreenQloud’s services globally, from Iceland, where the electrical grid is comprised 100% of hydro and geothermal energy, we’d be able to make the cloud easy to use and also actionably reduce the footprint of ICT.
The ICT industry uses non-renewable, dirty energy resources, it is widely believed, due to a lack of available clean, renewable energy. This is categorically untrue. We sourced an additional availability zone in Seattle that utilizes between 95-98% renewable energy.

The fact of the matter is, it’s never been easier for you to clean your data supply chain. Ask your supply chain vendors from where their data centres draw power. Ask your team how they can more efficiently manage infrastructure with the cloud. And put pressure on online vendors to adopt renewable, clean energy to power their services.

Global | Renewable energy

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