Top Sustainable Cloud Solutions

Organisations of all sizes and industries commonly use cloud platforms for data storage, web application hosting and disaster recovery. As environmental concerns grow, modern businesses would like their cloud solutions to be not only secure but also sustainable. Let’s find out which cloud providers are the ‘greenest’ as of 2024. 

Top Sustainable Cloud Solutions

Cloud computing has already immensely improved the sustainability of numerous business practices. In 2020, Accenture estimated that migrations to the public cloud could reduce CO2 emissions by 59 million tons per year, which equates to taking 22 million cars off the road. 

With remote access to computing power, storage, and on-demand applications without on-premises hardware or infrastructure, cloud platforms have enabled organisations to consolidate technology operations in shared facilities and reduce their carbon footprint.

At the same time, responsible businesses are trying to choose the most sustainable options out of all existing cloud solutions. To make this important choice, one should know whether a green cloud provider uses renewable energy sources and other energy-efficient practices. 

According to these parameters, here are the most sustainable cloud solutions on the market.

Google Cloud Platform

Three Big Tech cloud providers monopolise about two-thirds of the global market. Although the sustainability efforts of AWS, Microsoft and Google are similar, the latter was the first to claim it achieved its 100% renewable energy target in 2018. 

In 2022, Google reached 64% carbon-free energy performance globally on an hourly basis. The company also ambitiously plans to have data centres and campuses worldwide 100% powered by renewable energy 24/7 by 2030. By the same year, Google aims to make all its power sources carbon-free. 

Google Cloud employs several strategies to offset its carbon emissions. The company invests in large-scale renewable energy projects such as wind and solar farms. It also invests in carbon offset projects, mainly relying on hourly time-based energy attribute certificates. 

Besides, Google Cloud is involved in the circular economy. The company is committed to maximising resource efficiency and minimising waste. Google contributes to this goal through initiatives such as equipment refurbishment, recycling, and responsible materials sourcing.

Along with the transition to renewable energy for its data centres, Google Cloud is working to minimise water consumption in these hubs. The company is investing in water-efficient sophisticated cooling technologies and water recycling systems. In addition, Google Cloud data centres boast advanced cooling systems, efficient server designs, and energy management technologies.

In 2022, Google Cloud partnered with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on the Point Carbon Zero Programme. Within its framework, Google Cloud has launched the world’s first open-source cloud platform dedicated to climate finance. 

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS is committed to renewable energy, carbon neutrality, and environmental stewardship. Sustainable cloud computing is a crucial component of its offering. Amazon’s cloud department aims towards 100% renewable-energy-powered operations by 2025.

AWS’s initiatives also encompass water reduction and investing in large-scale wind and solar projects. Amazon, its parent company, has launched several wind and solar projects worldwide. In fact, Amazon’s portfolio reached over 500 solar and wind projects globally in 2023. 

AWS reduces its carbon footprint by offsetting its remaining carbon emissions through investments in renewable energy projects and carbon offset initiatives. Besides, it introduced energy efficiency improvements in corporate data centres and infrastructure. 

These include advanced cooling technologies, server optimisation techniques, and energy-efficient hardware designs. The company utilises innovative designs and technologies to optimise power usage effectiveness (PUE) and reduce water consumption in its facilities.

In addition, AWS enables customers to build sustainability solutions themselves. The offering ranges from carbon tracking to energy conservation to waste reduction. Its customers may use AWS artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, and computing services to process, analyse, and manage sustainability data as well as reach the organisation’s sustainability goals.

Oracle Cloud

Oracle Cloud provides businesses globally with services and capabilities for computing, storage, and data management. Oracle cloud services include on-premises, hybrid cloud, public cloud and multi-cloud solutions, including Oracle Database Service for Microsoft Azure.

The company aims to use 100% renewable energy to power its global operations, including both its facilities and cloud, by 2025 and become carbon neutral by 2035. It invests in renewable energy projects, e.g. solar and wind farms, to offset its electricity consumption and reduce carbon emissions. So far, 100% of OCI data centres in Europe are powered by renewable energy.

In addition, Oracle plans to plant more than 10 million trees by 2025, partnering with the Plant-for-the-Planet initiative to reach this goal. 

Oracle’s data centres strive to meet high environmental standards and sustainability criteria. The company prefers environmentally friendly materials, energy-efficient equipment, and sustainable construction practices in its data centres. It claims to have recycled and reused 99.7% of retired hardware. 

Oracle Cloud also offers tools for its business clients to achieve their sustainability goals. For example, the company provides “Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Emissions Tracking” service for businesses to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of their applications. Other Oracle Cloud features enable customers to monitor energy consumption and optimise the energy efficiency of apps.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft offers a tool called Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability to help users record, report, and reduce their environmental impact through automated data connections and actionable ESG insights. 

The company itself designs its data centres to maximise energy efficiency, substantially cutting electricity usage and improving its ecological footprint. Azure is incorporating sustainable design principles into its new data centre construction. The company uses recycled materials, optimises for natural lighting and airflow, and implements water-saving technologies.

Microsoft not only aims to transit to 100% renewable energy by 2025 but also wants to become ‘carbon negative’ by 2030. The company promises to remove all the carbon it has emitted since its founding in 1975 from the atmosphere shortly. 

Its efforts involve not only reducing the company’s carbon footprint but also investing in carbon removal technologies and projects. Besides, Microsoft has implemented unique company policies, including internal carbon taxes that prompt departments, including Azure, to minimise their climate impact. 

Finally, Microsoft has been exploring the concept of underwater data centres as a potential solution to ESG challenges. Its Project Natick involves deploying data centres in sealed cylindrical containers on the ocean floor. Water should help effectively absorb and dissipate heat generated by the servers, reducing the need for traditional cooling systems. At the same time, tidal, wave, and offshore wind power can provide sustainable energy for these underwater data centres.

IBM Cloud

IBM Envizi sustainability management software enables businesses to capture and track disparate data on ESG initiatives such as forecasts, timelines, cash flow, objectives and deliverables on a single platform. The solution incorporates PowerReports (embedded Microsoft Power BI) so that one can easily compare projects across their portfolio and supply chain to prioritise the most impactful ESG projects. Besides, the company offers its customers the Scenario Modeler Tool to assess insights and report on the potential impact of ESG projects based on different scenarios.

Furthermore, IBM has training programs and professional certifications in place to educate cloud professionals working at IBM, for its business partners or clients. The company plans to train 30 million people with new cloud skills by 2030. Its mission is to make training available to historically underrepresented categories, including women, people of colour and a global audience once deprived of learning opportunities due to geographical or technical obstacles.

The IBM Cloud department has a goal of reaching NetZero by 2030, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 65% and improving data centre cooling efficiency by 20%. IBM Cloud data centres are driven by IBM’s 21 Key Environmental Initiatives. By 2025, 75% of the energy the firm’s worldwide data centres leverage is expected to come from renewable sources. In the EU, 100% of IBM Cloud data centres already operate through renewable energy certificates.

Nina Bobro

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Nina is passionate about financial technologies and environmental issues, reporting on the industry news and the most exciting projects that build their offerings around the intersection of fintech and sustainability.