Green ICT in China Webinar

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Akamai's Green ICT Initiative

Content Delivery Network (CDN) services provider Akamai has launched a major initiative to reduce its GHG emissions. Most notable is its commitment to an absolute, not relative, reduction.

Akamai's May 2016 announcement: "Today we are committing, by 2020, to reduce our absolute greenhouse gas emissions below 2015 levels by sourcing renewable energy for 50 percent of our network operations."

A commitment to an absolute reduction is impressive when one considers Akamai's usage growth, "...a twenty-fold increase in network traffic over the past seven years...". The temptation is always there for a high-growth organization to set a relative target, under which its unit GHG emissions drop while its total GHG footprint grow.

Akamai provides an interesting perspective on the challenges faced by a global company. "With hundreds of thousands of servers humming away in more than 126 countries and thousands of locations, our network operations are responsible for 93 percent of our electricity-related Scope 2 and Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)..We are starting in the U.S., where voluntary renewable energy procurement is well defined, with clear ownership rules that avoid issues of doubling counting of carbon-neutrality claims. But, while we predict that reaching our goal will reduce our business-as-usual GHG emissions by 35-40 percent, our absolute emissions will decrease by a considerably smaller amount compared to 2015 levels. This is because of the combined effects of continued, demand-driven expansion of our network operations, and expansion in regions that have more carbon-intensive electricity than in the regions where we are targeting renewable energy projects, like California, for example. The higher carbon-intensity is a result of greater fossil-fuel use for electricity generation in regions such as Australia and India than in renewables-heavy California. "

The company notes that it is already "... successful in decoupling our business growth from energy use and carbon-emission impacts through efficiency and productivity gains." (See chart.)

Akamai positions its Green ICT strategy as a customer benefit, too. "Devon Leahy, Director of Sustainability and Social Innovation at Easy [said], 'The ability to get clean-powered, low-carbon content delivery from Akamai is a powerful way to extend our own sustainability initiatives.'” This aligns with other customer comments about the value of green data centers and infrastructures.