Google Cloud has outlined its commitment to helping enterprises “authentically” tighten up their sustainability strategies and become more environmentally friendly.
Ahead of the Google Cloud Sustainability Summit, which is taking place today (28 June 2022), the company’s managing director for sustainability, Justin Keeble, spoke at length about how enterprise attitudes to IT sustainability are changing.
There is growing interest from enterprises, he said, in “engaging in authentic sustainability efforts”, evidence of which can be seen from Google’s own internet search data.
“Search interest in greenwashing has increased to an all-time high this year… [and] consumers are actively looking to engage with organisations that can help them be better stewards of the environment with search interest in sustainable brands reaching a record high in 2022,” he said.
“We are entering a new era of sustainability-driven business transformation where organisations that embrace sustainability as core to their business will be the ones that succeed.”
In line with this, Google Cloud is introducing a series of changes to its product portfolio to help enterprises monitor the environmental impact of their operations with greater ease, he said, including certain forms of greenhouse gas emissions that are typically trickier to track.
Justin Keeble, Google Cloud
The company brought to market a tool last year called Carbon Footprint for Google Cloud, which is designed to help companies measure, report and reduce the gross carbon emissions they generate as a by-product of using the company’s services.
During the press conference, Keeble confirmed the company was “in the coming few weeks” planning to expand the range of emissions tracking data available to users of that product to include Scope 1 and Scope 3 emissions data.
Scope 1 emissions are those generated by a company’s own operations. Scope 3 are those generated by an organisation’s wider supply chain of suppliers and customers, and are notoriously harder for firms to keep tabs on.
“In addition to accounting for our customers’ Scope 2 emissions, associated with the production of the energy that we use [to power Google Cloud services], customers will also be able to access data on the emissions from the sources we control directly, as well as the relevant emissions of Google’s Scope 3 proportion to customer usage,” said Keeble.
“This will give our customers the most comprehensive view possible of the emissions [generated and] associated with their cloud usage.”
In early 2023, the Google Cloud team is also hoping to make it possible for users of the Google Workspace online productivity suite to track their carbon footprint and gain a better understanding of the carbon emissions generated by the use of services such as Gmail, Keeble confirmed.
Elsewhere, the company is also introducing changes to the way its cloud platform operates so that IT teams, IT administrators and cloud architects can be empowered to take action themselves to help reduce the carbon emissions generated by their own organisations’ IT-related activities.
This is through the roll-out of a Low Carbon Mode functionality that lets these individuals opt to have the Google Cloud resources their companies use served up solely from low-carbon locations.
“With just a few clicks, one of the most impactful actions customers can take to reduce the gross emissions of using Google Cloud is to prioritise the locations with more carbon-free energy powering our infrastructure,” continued Keeble. “Relative to other choices, customers will be able to lower carbon emissions by five- to 10-fold [this way].”
For companies that want a more visual guide to the environmental impact their activities might be having, the Google Cloud team also confirmed that access to its Google Earth Engine service is being opened to commercial enterprises and governments.
Google Earth Engine is essentially a multi-petabyte collection of satellite imagery and geospatial datasets that scientists, researchers and non-governmental organisations have had free access to since 2010 to carry out planetary-scale analysis of how the surface of the Earth has changed over time.
During the press conference, Rebecca Moore, director of Google Earth, Earth Engine and outreach, said the company had found itself on the receiving end of a growing number of requests to access the service from governments in recent years to support their sustainability activities.
“We are sharing Earth Engine with the world and making it available for the first time as an enterprise-grade commercial offering to all businesses and government… [and] we’re helping companies [develop] a responsible management of natural resources, while also building sustainable business practices,” she said.