Most of us want to make more sustainable choices in our lives and are increasingly expecting the businesses we interact with and our governments to do likewise. According to Google , “how to reduce my carbon footprint,” is being searched more than ever, along with questions about greenwashing. This was the backdrop to the first Google Cloud Sustainability Summit which took place earlier this week, and saw the announcement by Google Cloud of an expanded portfolio of sustainability tools.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the summit, Justin Keeble, Managing Director of Global Sustainability at Google Cloud, commented on the challenges that all organisations and individuals face:
“At Google, we believe that the path to a sustainable future begins with the small decisions we make every day. But industries, governments and corporations are challenged to make these decisions without the right data or insights to inform them. Even a small choice for an organization — which raw material to choose for a new product, when to proactively water crops ahead of a drought, which green funds to invest in — requires understanding unique and often complex information.”
“Everyone wants to better understand how to become more sustainable, and take actions that have a meaningful impact. Businesses and individuals alike are wondering how to turn sustainability ambition into action.”
Widening access to climate insight
Google announced that Google Earth Engine, which originally launched to scientists and NGOs in 2010 will now be available for the first time as an enterprise grade commercial offering to all businesses and governments. In order to support the work of government researchers, the least developed countries, tribal nations and news media, Earth Engine will also be available at no cost to those organisations and will continue to be available at no cost for non-profit academic research and educational use.
At the press conference, Rebecca Moore, Director Google Earth, Earth Engine & Outreach commented:
“Google Earth Engine, is at the forefront of planetary scale environmental monitoring. With one of the world’s largest publicly available Earth observation data catalogues it combines data from hundreds of satellites and other sources that are continuously streaming into Earth Engine.”
“This data is then combined with massive geospatial cloud computing resources, which enables transformation of this raw data into timely, accurate, high resolution, decision relevant insights about the state of the world. This can include forests, water, ecosystems, agriculture, and how all of these are changing over time. Essentially it makes it possible to detect trends and understand correlations between human activities and environmental impact.”
For their ecosystem of Google Cloud Partners, Google have announced two initiatives. The first is Google Cloud Ready (GCR) – Sustainability, which is a new validation program for partners with a business-ready solution available on Google Cloud that helps customers achieve sustainability goals. Partners with the GCR-Sustainability designation deliver solutions that reduce carbon emissions, increase the sustainability of value chains, help organizations process ESG data or help them identify climate risks for increased resilience.
The second, related, initiative launching later this year is Google Cloud Marketplace Sustainability Hub which will provide customers with easy access to validated sustainability solutions.
Measuring carbon footprints
Building on last years’ Carbon Footprint for Google Cloud which enables customers to quantify the gross carbon emissions of Google Cloud services, the company has added Carbon Footprint for Google Workspace which helps companies to measure, reduce and report on the emissions associated with applications such as Gmail.
There will also be a dedicated IAM role for Carbon Footprint which will enable non-technical users of Google Cloud to easily access emissions data and use it for tracking or in disclosures.
Low-carbon mode will enable Google Cloud customers to restrict their cloud resources to low-carbon locations across Google infrastructure. Google claim that “relative to other choices” this means that customers may be able to significantly lower emissions.
Carbon Footprint is also adding both scope 1 and 3 emissions to its reporting data. Scope 3 emissions reporting is challenging. There are 15 categories of emission and quantifying both upstream and downstream emissions is difficult. When questioned during the press conference about the extent of Scope 3 emissions that were included, a spokesperson for Google later commented:
“The Scope 3 data/reporting includes emissions from data centre operations, employee commutes and embodied emissions from data centre hardware and construction. It’s relevant scope 3 categories to Google Cloud — for example, the concrete to build the data centre would be included.”
Carbon Free Energy Pilot
For the past decade, Google have, in collaboration with partners, collected insights and knowledge about how to progress their business towards a carbon-free future. Google will now begin to share 24/7 carbon-free energy insights with Google Cloud customers through a new pilot program.
This program will provide access to historical and real-time data so that Google customers will see a clear picture of their electricity emissions profile. The pilot will enable customers to baseline their existing carbon-free energy (CFE) score and their scope 2 carbon footprint. This should in turn help them forecast and plan for an optimized energy portfolio, and eventually execute on carbon-free energy transactions.
This kind of knowledge and data sharing will be crucial if ambitious net-zero targets are to be reached.