Building Towards Global Climate Neutrality

Committing to science-based targets continues a trend towards more sustainable business practices for ourselves and our customers

Chris Kimm
Building Towards Global Climate Neutrality

At Equinix we are strongly committed to sustainability in how we think about many aspects of the work we do. So it was with great anticipation for those most engaged in this work that Equinix recently announced its commitment to reach global climate neutrality by 2030 and achieve science-based targets that align with the goals of the Paris Agreement – “limiting global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.”[i]

Based on those targets, we are focused on how much and how quickly we need to reduce our company’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Our ongoing efforts to decrease our carbon footprint, improve our power usage effectiveness (PUE), and our commitment to use 100% clean and renewable energy across our global portfolio aligns directly with our new and existing data center designs/redesigns.

Innovating to address every aspect of energy consumption

Energy efficiency starts with a physical building infrastructure that meets high energy efficiency standards. Equinix designs, builds, retrofits and operates all of our data centers with PUE goals in mind. For new construction, in our Green Finance Framework issued to support our green bonds, we recently updated our commitment to building to lower design average annual PUEs (better than 1.45) and aspiring to build to LEED Gold standards or better. Our global operational average PUE continues to improve across our portfolio of data centers, even as our footprint has doubled through the building of new data centers and acquiring other assets. Our rapid growth has come with increasing demands for energy, but our absolute emissions of carbon in 2020 actually fell by almost 50% when compared to our 2015 emissions due to a combination of improved efficiency and an increasing percentage of our energy coming from sustainable sources. Through a combination of efficiency gains and renewable energy purchasing we successfully avoided over 7 million metric tons (mt) of CO2 around the world between 2015 and 2019 and 1.95 million mt in 2020 alone. And we aren’t stopping there. We are using innovative technologies to look at every aspect of our energy consumption and continuing to optimize our operations.

Big data analytics helps us identify where energy savings is possible, make improvements, and eventually it will help us to automate processes for maximum energy efficiency. Forbes CIO NEXT 2021 recently recognized my colleague and our CIO, Milind Wagle, for his data center innovations, including developing data-driven models that can more accurately forecast customer usage patterns and associated power needs. This technology is enabling us to better predict when individual data centers will hit power capacity limits and when we need to replace aging systems for more efficient ones. Eventually, we’ll use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) against this data so we can better predict the difference between what we calculated our power usage effectiveness should be at a certain point and what it actually is, allowing us to further optimize and become more energy efficient.

We are also keeping an eye on emerging sustainability technologies to identify new ways to save energy. Last year we opened our Co-Innovation Facility (CIF) in Ashburn, Virginia to pilot effective, scalable technologies that have the potential to decrease our emissions and help us identify the technologies that will become part of the data center of the future. These technologies include installing fuel cells to be the primary power source for a site. Fuel cells generate reliable electricity on site that is 20% to 45% cleaner than the equivalent natural gas-powered generation from a power plant and offer a means to deploy hydrogen-powered generation as that ecosystem matures in the future.

Clean energy for the digital world

We’ve set a long-term goal to use 100% clean and renewable energy across our global portfolio and data center platform.

View Our Sustainability Efforts

The data center industry is joining together to define a path to decarbonization

We believe our efforts to reduce emissions are amplified in partnership with other, like-minded organizations. The EPA’s Green Power Partnership National Top 100[i] encourages organizations to buy green power to reduce the environmental impacts associated with purchased electricity use and ranks companies according to their annual green power usage. The list contains six data center, IT and communications companies, including Equinix (#6) in the top 10, and two additional data center companies in the top 25. In the EU, Equinix is a founding member of the EU Climate Neutral Data Centre Operator Pact and self-regulatory initiative. The Pact, which now includes a majority of data center operations in the EU,[ii] is focused on scaling the impact of companies, industry trade groups and EU leaders to achieve collaborative sustainability and climate neutral data center operations goals in Europe by 2030. Data center operators and cloud providers around the world are stepping up and setting additional global targets around carbon reduction.

Our supply chain is invested in reducing emissions

At Equinix, we are continuously finding ways to make both small and large differences in our power consumption. In examining and measuring our total environmental impact, we look at emissions we directly control (scope 1), emissions created by power operators who support our business (scope 2) and the emissions embedded in our supply chain (scope 3). By working together, we not only ensure more accurate environmental impact reporting for our customers as well as the most significant suppliers in our value chain, we also believe that transparent measurement will enable a greater overall reduction in our total emissions.

We’re helping our customers meet their sustainability goals

Many industry leaders including Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have made their own aggressive public commitments to environmental sustainability.  Environmental sustainability is fast becoming a key requirement for many of our customers. Looking forward, we believe more and more organizations will choose to outsource data center operations to operators with the commitment and expertise to reduce carbon emissions. Moving from a private data center, whether that is a large closet in an office or a dedicated building at a company’s headquarters, to a colocation facility of a committed operator will reduce an organization’s total greenhouse gas emissions in most cases.

Visibility into usage patterns is an important first step in becoming more sustainable. SmartView®, Equinix’s data center monitoring software, enables our customers to monitor power, mechanical and environmental conditions, providing information about trends and real-time visibility into operating data for our customers’ infrastructure assets through an online portal or customizable APIs. The insights our customers get from SmartView help them make better decisions in their own operations including how to improve their power efficiency. And customized reports like our Equinix Green Power Report (GPR) enable our customers to take advantage of our sustainability progress in their reporting. These reports equip our customers with energy consumption, renewable energy usage and carbon footprint data needed to measure and report relevant metrics in pursuit of their own goals and targets. In the future, we hope to provide the ability to see exactly how much power and water an individual cage is using so that our customers can determine exactly what their emissions are at a more granular level.

These and other economies of scale, combined with our “green” data center design and operations expertise help make it easier for companies on Platform Equinix to track and achieve their environmental sustainability goals.

Environmental sustainability is good for business

 Data center construction is capital intensive, and access to “green financing” through the issuance of green bonds is another major incentive toward building sustainable facilities and investing in sustainable technologies. To date, Equinix has issued $3.7 billion in green bonds since 2020. These bonds will advance projects that support our commitment to environmental sustainability. They offer attractive financing rates through investors who want to be part of private sector responses and solutions to pressing environmental problems like climate change.

Our Future First sustainability strategy rallies our people and partners to envision a better future and then do what it takes to make it happen. By committing to climate-neutral and science-based targets and the transparent public reporting associated with them, we are taking the steps that will make us good partners with any organization that is concerned about sustainability and stands to benefit from the data center and digital infrastructure platform capabilities we offer at Equinix.

Learn more about our Sustainability Program.

[i] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Power Partnership National Top 100 (April 26, 2021)

[ii] The European Pact for Sustainable Industry 2030

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