How Green is Your Cloud?

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For many organisations migrating to cloud, the opportunity to run workloads from energy-efficient cloud data centres is a significant advantage. However, carbon emissions can vary from one country to another and if left unmonitored, will gradually increase over time as cloud use grows. This issue will become increasingly important as we move into the era of compute-intensive AI and the burden of cloud on natural resources will shift further into the spotlight.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that data centres are responsible for up to 1.5% of global electricity use and 1% of GHG emissions. Cloud providers have recognised this and are committed to change. Between 2025 and 2030, all hyperscalers – AWS, Azure, Google, and Oracle included – expect to power their global cloud operations entirely with renewable sources.

Chasing the Sun

Cloud providers are shifting their sights from simply matching electricity use with renewable power purchase agreements (PPA) to the more ambitious goal of operating 24/7 on carbon-free sources. A defining characteristic of renewables though is intermittency, with production levels fluctuating based on the availability of sunlight and wind. Leading cloud providers are using AI to dynamically distribute compute workloads throughout the day to regions with lower carbon intensity. Workloads that are processed with solar power during daylight can be shifted to nearby regions with abundant wind energy at night.

Addressing Water Scarcity

Many of the largest cloud data centres are situated in sunny locations to take advantage of solar power and proximity to population centres. Unfortunately, this often means that they are also in areas where water is scarce. While liquid-cooled facilities are energy efficient, local communities are concerned on the strain on water sources. Data centre operators are now committing to reduce consumption and restore water supplies. Simple measures, such as expanding humidity (below 20% RH) and temperature tolerances (above 30°C) in server rooms have helped companies like Meta to cut wastage. Similarly, Google has increased their reliance on non-potable sources, such as grey water and sea water.

From Waste to Worth

Data centre operators have identified innovative ways to reuse the excess heat generated by their computing equipment. Some have used it to heat adjacent swimming pools while others have warmed rooms that house vertical farms. Although these initiatives currently have little impact on the environmental impact of cloud, they suggest a future where waste is significantly reduced.

Greening the Grid

The giant facilities that cloud providers use to house their computing infrastructure are also set to change. Building materials and construction account for an astonishing 11% of global carbon emissions. The use of recycled materials in concrete and investing in greener methods of manufacturing steel are approaches the construction industry are attempting to lessen their impact. Smaller data centres have been 3D printed to accelerate construction and use recyclable printing concrete. While this approach may not be suitable for hyperscale facilities, it holds potential for smaller edge locations.

Rethinking Hardware Management

Cloud providers rely on their scale to provide fast, resilient, and cost-effective computing. In many cases, simply replacing malfunctioning or obsolete equipment would achieve these goals better than performing maintenance. However, the relentless growth of e-waste is putting pressure on cloud providers to participate in the circular economy. Microsoft, for example, has launched three Circular Centres to repurpose cloud equipment. During the pilot of their Amsterdam centre, it achieved 83% reuse and 17% recycling of critical parts. The lifecycle of equipment in the cloud is largely hidden but environmentally conscious users will start demanding greater transparency.


Organisations should be aware of their cloud-derived scope 3 emissions and consider broader environmental issues around water use and recycling. Here are the steps that can be taken immediately:

  1. Monitor GreenOps. Cloud providers are adding GreenOps tools, such as the AWS Customer Carbon Footprint Tool, to help organisations measure the environmental impact of their cloud operations. Understanding the relationship between cloud use and emissions is the first step towards sustainable cloud operations.
  2. Adopt Cloud FinOps for Quick ROI. Eliminating wasted cloud resources not only cuts costs but also reduces electricity-related emissions. Tools such as CloudVerse provide visibility into cloud spend, identifies unused instances, and helps to optimise cloud operations.
  3. Take a Holistic View. Cloud providers are being forced to improve transparency and reduce their environmental impact by their biggest customers. Getting educated on the actions that cloud partners are taking to minimise emissions, water use, and waste to landfill is crucial. In most cases, dedicated cloud providers should reduce waste rather than offset it.
  4. Enable Remote Workforce. Cloud-enabled security and networking solutions, such as SASE, allow employees to work securely from remote locations and reduce their transportation emissions. With a SASE deployed in the cloud, routine management tasks can be performed by IT remotely rather than at the branch, further reducing transportation emissions.
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COP28: Progress, Challenges, and Next Steps

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The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (or COP28) took place at the end of 2023 in one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world – the UAE. The event brought together nations, leaders, and climate experts to unite around tangible climate action and deliver realistic solutions.

COP28 marked a watershed moment in the global effort to fight climate change because it concluded the first Global Stocktake – a routine assessment of progress under the Paris Agreement that occurs every five years. It is clear that we are not on track to meet the agreement’s goals, but the decisions and actions taken during COP28 can redefine the trajectory of climate action.

COP27: Laying the Foundation

COP27 laid the groundwork for this year’s conference. The summit focused on mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaboration. The key outcomes of COP27 included the creation of the loss and damage fund, new pledges to the Adaptation Fund, and advancements in the Santiago Network focused on technical support for climate-affected regions. The conference also saw progress on the Global Stocktake and formal recognition of new issues such as water, food security, and forests within climate deliberations.

However, there was widespread criticism for failing to live up to the urgency of impending climate crisis. Despite being called the “implementation COP”, nothing decisive was done to ensure global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees celsius.

COP28: Milestones

Launching the first-ever Global Stocktake. The Global Stocktake was the spotlight of this year’s event and covered various climate issues, including energy, transport, and nature. Despite strong opposition from Oil & Gas interests, negotiators secured an agreement indicating the start of the end of the fossil fuel era – a much-needed conclusion to the hottest year in history. The next global assessment of Paris Agreement targets is expected to take place at COP33 in 2028.

Supporting sustainable agriculture. A landmark declaration on sustainable agriculture was adopted to address climate-related threats to global food systems. Signed by 160 countries, the declaration pledged a collective commitment by participating nations to expedite the integration of agriculture and food systems into national climate actions by 2025. For the first time ever, the summit also featured an entire day devoted to food and agriculture and saw a food systems roadmap laid out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Operationalising the “Loss and Damage” fund. The conference saw the approval of the “loss and damage fund” that was first tabled at COP27 last year. The fund has been a long-requested support for developing nations facing the impact of climate change.

Tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency by 2030. 118 countries signed a renewable energy pledge to triple the world’s green energy capacity to 11,000 GW by 2030, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels in generating energy. The pledge is expected to see global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements from around 2% to over 4% every year until 2030. While the pledge spearheaded by the EU, the US, and the UAE is not legally binding, it is a step in the right direction.  

Adapting to a warmer world. COP28 provided a framework for the ‘Global Goal on Adaptation’ to guide countries in their efforts to protect their people and ecosystems from climate change. An explicit 2030 date has been integrated into the text for targets on water security, ecosystem restoration, health, climate-resilient food systems, resilient human settlements, reduction of poverty, and protection of tangible cultural heritage.

Addressing methane. Methane took centre stage at COP28, reflecting its significant role in current global warming. US, Canada, Brazil, and Egypt announced more than USD 1 billion in funding to reduce methane emissions. Despite facing political challenges, these measures signify a shift towards concrete regulatory and pricing tools, marking a step forward in addressing methane’s impact on climate protection.

How COP28 Could Have Been More Impactful

Better funding allocations. Although the “loss and damage” funding agreement seems like a major outcome, the actual financial commitments fell far short. US and China, despite being the world’s largest emitters, extended only USD 17.5 million and USD 10 million to the fund, respectively. There is also debate about how funds should be distributed, with mature countries favouring aid allocation based on vulnerability. This approach might exclude middle-income countries that have suffered significant climate-related damage recently.

More focus on AI. While COP28 tackled critical climate issues, it overlooked a significant concern – the environmental impact of AI. While AI holds promise for improved sustainability, it is important to address the environmental consequences of AI model training and deployment. The absence of scrutiny on the ecological impact of AI represents a missed early opportunity, considering the widespread hype and significant investments in the technology.

Recognising climate refugees. The increase in climate-related displacement is a growing concern, with millions already affected and predictions of a significant rise by 2050. International law does not recognise those displaced by climate events as refugees. Despite this, the topic wasn’t adequately explored at COP28, highlighting the need for inclusive discussions and solutions for safe migration pathways.

A Call for Unified Action

While COP28 and similar forums highlight the severity of the climate crisis, the real power lies in continuous collective conversations that identify gaps, strive to bridge them, and drive meaningful change. Ecosystm, in collaboration with partners Kyndryl and Microsoft, conducted a Global Sustainability Barometer study, that reveals that while 85% of global organisations acknowledge the strategic importance of sustainability goals, only 16% have successfully integrated sustainability into their corporate and transformation strategies with tangible data.

While governments and policy makers continue to focus on building a sustainable future for the planet, this is time for a shift in mindset and action is pivotal for a unified global effort in addressing climate challenges and building a sustainable future – from organisations and individuals alike.  

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Future of the Sustainable Organisation: Top 5 ESG Trends in 2024

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The UN’s global stocktake synthesis report underscores the need for significant efforts to meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement to keep the global warming limit to 1.5ºC, compared to pre-industrial levels. Achieving this requires collective action from governments, organisations, and individuals.

While regulators focus on mandates, organisations today are being influenced more by individual responsibility for positive impact. Customers and employees are leading ESG actions – another fast-emerging voice driving ESG initiatives are value chain partners looking to build sustainable supply chains.

Ecosystm Predicst: Top 5 ESG Trends in 2024. Most Vocal Advocates of ESG.

Ecosystm research reveals that only 27% of organisations worldwide currently view ESG as a strategic imperative, yet we anticipate rapid change in the landscape.

Click below to find out what Ecosystm analysts Gerald Mackenzie, Kaushik Ghatak, Peter Carr and Sash Mukherjee consider the top 5 ESG trends that will shape organisations’ sustainability roadmaps in 2024.

Click here to download ‘Ecosystm Predicts: Top 5 ESG Trends in 2024’ as a PDF.

#1 Organisations Will Evolve ESG Strategies from Compliance to Customer & Brand Value

Many of the organisations that we talk to have framed their ESG strategy and roadmaps primarily in relation to compliance and regulatory standards that they need to meet, e.g. in relation to emissions reporting and reduction, or in verifying that their supply chains are free from Modern Slavery.

However, organisations that are more mature in their journeys have realised that ESG is quickly becoming a strategic differentiator and compliance is only the start of their sustainability journey.

Customers, employees, and investors are increasingly selective about the brands they want to associate with and expect them to have a purpose and values that are aligned with their own. 

Ecosystm Predicst: Top 5 ESG Trends in 2024. Organisations Will Evolve ESG Strategies from Compliance to Customer & Brand Value.

#2 Sustainability Will Remain a Stepping-Stone to Full ESG

Heading into 2024, the corporate continues to navigate the nuances between Sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives. Sustainability, focused on environmental stewardship, is a common starting point for corporate responsibility, offering measurable goals for a solid foundation.

Yet, the transition to comprehensive ESG, which includes broader social and governance issues alongside environmental concerns, demands broader scope and deeper capabilities, shifting from quantitative to qualitative measures. The trend of merging sustainability with ESG risks is blurring distinct objectives, potentially complicating reporting and compliance, and causing confusion in the market. Nevertheless, this conflation ultimately paves the way for more integrated, holistic corporate strategies.

By aligning sustainability efforts with wider ESG goals, companies will develop more comprehensive solutions that address the entire spectrum of corporate responsibility.

#3 ESG Consulting Will Grow – Till Industry Templates Take Over

At the end of 2022, LinkedIn buzzed with announcements of Chief Sustainability Officer appointments. However, the Global Sustainability Barometer Study reveals that only around one-third of global organisations have a dedicated sustainability lead. What changed?

Organisations have recognised that ESG is intricate, requiring a comprehensive focus and a capable team, not just a sustainability leader.

Each organisation’s path to sustainability is unique, shaped by factors like size, industry, location, stakeholders, culture, and values. Successfully integrating ESG requires a nuanced understanding of an organisation’s barriers, opportunities, and risks, making it challenging to navigate the sustainability journey alone. This is complicated by the absence of clear government/industry mandates and guidelines that frame best practices.

Ecosystm Predicst: Top 5 ESG Trends in 2024. ESG Consulting Will Grow – Till Industry Templates Take Over.

#4 Sustainability Tech Will Finally Gain Traction

Many organisations initiate sustainability journeys with promises and general  strategies. While the role of technology in accelerating goals is recognised, alignment has been lacking. In 2024 sustainability tech will gain traction.

Environmental Tech. Improved sensors and analytics will enhance monitoring of air and water quality, carbon footprint, biodiversity, and climate patterns.

Carbon-Neutral Transportation. Advancements in electric and hydrogen vehicles, batteries, and clean mobility infrastructure will persist.

Circular Economy. Innovations like reverse logistics and product lifecycle tracking will help reduce waste and extend product/material life.

Smart Grids and Renewable Energy. Smart grid tech and new solutions for renewable energy integration will improve energy distribution.

Ecosystm Predicst: Top 5 ESG Trends in 2024. Sustainability Tech Will Finally Gain Traction

#5 Cleantech Innovation Will See Increased Funding

Cleantech is the innovation that is driving our adaptation to climate change. We expect that investments into, and the pace of innovation and adoption of Cleantech will accelerate into 2024.

As companies commit to their net-zero targets, the need to operationalise the technologies required to fuel this transition becomes all the more urgent.  BloombergNEF reported that for Europe alone, nearly USD 220 billion was invested in Cleantech in 2022.

But to meet net-zero ambitions, annual investments in Cleantech will need to triple over the rest of this decade and quadruple in the next.

Ecosystm Predicst: Top 5 ESG Trends in 2024. Cleantech Innovation Will See Increased Funding.
Ecosystm Predicts 2024
Embedding Sustainability in Corporate Strategy and Operations​

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In our previous Ecosystm Insights, Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Gerald Mackenzie, highlighted the key drivers for boosting ESG maturity and the need to transition from standalone ESG projects to integrating ESG goals into organisational strategy and operations. ​

This shift can be difficult, requiring an alignment of ESG objectives with broader strategic aims and using organisational capabilities effectively. The solution involves prioritising essential goals, knitting them into overall business strategy, quantifying success metrics, and establishing incentives and governance for effective execution.​

The benefits are proven and significant. Stronger Customer and Employee Value Propositions, better bottom line, improved risk profile, and more attractive enterprise valuations for investors and lenders.​

According to Gerald, here are 5 things to keep in mind when starting on an ESG journey. 

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Putting Customers at the Heart of Sustainability: A New Path for ESG Strategy

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In an era marked by heightened global awareness of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues, organisations find themselves at a crossroad where profitability converges with responsibility. The imperative to take resolute action on ESG fronts is underscored by a compelling array of statistics and evidence that highlight the profound impact of these considerations on long-term success.  

A 2020 McKinsey report revealed that executives and investors value companies with robust ESG performance around 10% higher in valuations than laggards. Equally pivotal, workplace diversity is now recognised as a strategic advantage; a study in the Harvard Business Review finds that companies with above-average total diversity had both 19% higher innovation revenues and 9% higher EBIT margins, on average. Against this backdrop, organisations must recognise that embracing ESG principles is not merely an ethical gesture but a strategic imperative that safeguards resilience, reputation, and enduring financial prosperity. 

The data from the ongoing Ecosystm State of ESG Adoption study was used to evaluate the status and maturity of organisations’ ESG strategy and implementation progress. A diverse representation across industries such as Financial Services, Manufacturing, and Retail & eCommerce, as well as from roles across the organisation has helped us with insights and an understanding of where organisations stand in terms of the maturity of their ESG strategy and implementation efforts.  

A Tailored Approach to Improve ESG Maturity 

Ecosystm assists clients in driving greater impact through their ESG adoption. Our tools evaluate an organisation’s aspirations and roadmaps using a maturity model, along with a series of practical drivers that enhance ESG response maturity. The maturity of an organisation’s approach on ESG tends to progress from a reactive, or risk/compliance-based focus, to a customer, or opportunity driven approach, to a purpose led approach that is focused on embedding ESG into the core culture of the organisation. Our advisory, research and consulting offerings are customised to the transitions organisations are seeking to make in their maturity levels over time.   

ESG Maturity Defined

Within the maturity framework outlined above, Ecosystm has identified the key organisational drivers to improve maturity and adoption. The Ecosystm ESG Consulting offerings are configured to both support the development of ESG strategy and the delivery and ‘story telling’ around ESG programs based on the goals of the customer (maturity aspiration) and the gaps they need to close to deliver the aspiration.   

What ESG Maturity Looks Like

Key Findings of the Ecosystm State of ESG Study 

89% of respondents self-reported that their organisation had an ESG strategy; however, a notable 60% also identified that a lack of alignment of sustainability goals to enterprise strategy was a key issue in implementation. This reflects many of the client discussions we’ve had, where customers share that ESG goals that have not been fully tested against other organisational priorities can create tensions and make it difficult to solve trade-offs across the organisation during implementation.  

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People & Leadership/Execution & Governance 

Capabilities are still emerging. 40% of respondents mentioned that a lack of a governance framework for ESG was a barrier to adoption, and 56% mentioned that immature metrics and reporting maturity slowed adoption. 64% of respondents also mentioned that a lack of specialised resources as a key barrier to ESG adoption.

In our discussions with customers, we understand that there is good support for ESG across organisations, but there needs to be a simple narrative compelling them to action on a few clearly articulated priorities, a clear mandate from senior leadership and credible resourcing and governance to ensure follow through. 

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Data and Technology Enablement 

There is a strong opportunity for improvement. “We can’t manage what we cannot measure” has been the common refrain from the clients we have spoken to and the survey reflected this. Only 47% of respondents say that preparing data, analytics, reporting, and metrics for internal consumption is a priority for their tech teams.   

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ESG is rapidly emerging as a key priority for customers, investors, talent, and other stakeholders who seek a comprehensive and genuine commitment from the organisations they interact with. Successfully determining the right priorities and effectively mobilising your organisation and external collaborators for implementation are pivotal. It’s crucial to acknowledge the intricacy and extent of effort needed for this endeavour. 

With our timely research findings complementing our ESG maturity and implementation frameworks, analyst insights and consulting support, Ecosystm is well-positioned to help you to navigate your journey to ESG maturity. 

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The Top 5 Cloud Trends for 2023 & Beyond

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Organisations in Asia Pacific are no longer only focused on employing a cloud-first strategy – they want to host the infrastructure and workloads where it makes the most sense; and expect a seamless integration across multiple cloud environments.

While cloud can provide the agile infrastructure that underpins application modernisation, innovative leaders recognise that it is only the first step on the path towards developing AI-powered organisations. The true value of cloud is in the data layer, unifying data around the network, making it securely available wherever it is needed, and infusing AI throughout the organisation.

Cloud provides a dynamic and powerful platform on which organisations can build AI. Pre-trained foundational models, pay-as-you-go graphics superclusters, and automated ML tools for citizen data scientists are now all accessible from the cloud even to start-ups.

Organisations should assess the data and AI capabilities of their cloud providers rather than just considering it an infrastructure replacement. Cloud providers should use native services or integrations to manage the data lifecycle from labelling to model development, and deployment.

In this Ecosystm Byte, sponsored by Oracle, Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Darian Bird presents the top 5 trends for Cloud in 2023 and beyond. Read on to find out more.

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Sustainability is About MUCH More than Green Credentials

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As an industry, the tech sector tends to jump on keywords and terms – and sometimes reshapes their meaning and intention. “Sustainable” is one of those terms. Technology vendors are selling (allegedly!) “sustainable software/hardware/services/solutions” – in fact, the focus on “green” or “zero carbon” or “recycled” or “circular economy” is increasing exponentially at the moment. And that is good news – as I mentioned in my previous post, we need to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we want a future for our kids. But there is a significant disconnect between the way tech vendors use the word “sustainable” and the way it is used in boardrooms and senior management teams of their clients.

Defining Sustainability

For organisations, Sustainability is a broad business goal – in fact for many, it is the over-arching goal. A sustainable organisation operates in a way that balances economic, social, and environmental (ESG) considerations. Rather than focusing solely on profits, a sustainable organisation aims to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This is what building a “Sustainable Organisation” typically involves:

Economic Sustainability. The organisation must be financially stable and operate in a manner that ensures long-term economic viability. It doesn’t just focus on short-term profits but invests in long-term growth and resilience.

Social Sustainability. This involves the organisation’s responsibility to its employees, stakeholders, and the wider community. A sustainable organisation will promote fair labour practices, invest in employee well-being, foster diversity and inclusion, and engage in ethical decision-making. It often involves community engagement and initiatives that support societal growth and well-being.

Environmental Sustainability. This facet includes the responsible use of natural resources and minimising negative impacts on the environment. A sustainable organisation seeks to reduce its carbon footprint, minimise waste, enhance energy efficiency, and often supports or initiates activities that promote environmental conservation.

Governance and Ethical Considerations. Sustainable organisations tend to have transparent and responsible governance. They follow ethical business practices, comply with laws and regulations, and foster a culture of integrity and accountability.

Security and Resilience. Sustainable organisations have the ability to thwart bad actors – and in the situation that they are breached, to recover from these breaches quickly and safely. Sustainable organisations can survive cybersecurity incidents and continue to operate when breaches occur, with the least impact.

Long-Term Focus. Sustainability often requires a long-term perspective. By looking beyond immediate gains and considering the long-term impact of decisions, a sustainable organisation can better align its strategies with broader societal goals.

Stakeholder Engagement. Understanding and addressing the needs and concerns of different stakeholders (including employees, customers, suppliers, communities, and shareholders) is key to sustainability. This includes open communication and collaboration with these groups to foster relationships based on trust and mutual benefit.

Adaptation and Innovation. The organisation is not static and recognises the need for continual improvement and adaptation. This might include innovation in products, services, or processes to meet evolving sustainability standards and societal expectations.

Alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). Many sustainable organisations align their strategies and operations with the UNSDGs which provide a global framework for addressing sustainability challenges.

Organisations Appreciate Precise Messaging

A sustainable organisation is one that integrates economic, social, and environmental considerations into all aspects of its operations. It goes beyond mere compliance with laws to actively pursue positive impacts on people and the planet, maintaining a balance that ensures long-term success and resilience.

These factors are all top of mind when business leaders, boards and government agencies use the word “sustainable”. Helping organisations meet their emission reduction targets is a good starting point – but it is a long way from all businesses need to become sustainable organisations.

Tech providers need to reconsider their use of the term “sustainable” – unless their solution or service is helping organisations meet all of the features outlined above. Using specific language would be favoured by most customers – telling them how the solution will help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions, meet compliance requirements for CO2 and/or waste reduction, and save money on electricity and/or management costs – these are all likely to get the sale over the line faster than a broad “sustainability” messaging will.

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