Organizations throughout the world now see their sustainability strategy and practices as critical factors in the longevity of their business, and for good reason. These organizations face pressure from customers and regulators alike to make progress toward their sustainability targets and contribute to greening their entire value chain. Fortunately, businesses can future proof themselves by creating a sustainability strategy and consistently executing against it.
This is particularly true for businesses that operate in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). We’ve already begun to see the European Union set the de facto global standards for increasingly comprehensive environmental regulations, just as it did previously for data privacy regulations. This may help explain why the Equinix 2023 Global Tech Trends Survey (GTTS) found that only 42% of EMEA IT leaders said they felt confident their business can satisfy customer demand for more sustainable practices, below the global average of 47%.
Many EMEA businesses recognize that they must align their IT operations to their sustainability strategies. In fact, the GTTS found that 60% of EMEA IT leaders said they would only work with IT partners who could prove they can meet key carbon-reduction targets.
As the world’s digital infrastructure company®, Equinix is dedicated to helping our customers overcome the many challenges they face while undergoing digital transformation, including sustainability. We call our global sustainability strategy Future First because we believe that a better future is possible, and that we can work with our partners and customers to help make that future a reality. Examples of the sustainability progress we’ve made recently include:
- Being the first digital infrastructure company to commit to becoming climate neutral by 2030. We set a science-based target (SBT) for emissions reduction across our global operations and supply chain to help us meet that goal.
- Achieving 96% renewables coverage globally during 2022—including 100% coverage in EMEA.
- Developing next-generation sustainability innovations—such as high-density liquid cooling and low-carbon fuel cells—and beginning to deploy pilot programs for these technologies to support real customer workloads.
- Committing to optimize our overall power use by widening the operating temperature ranges for our data centers.
We also believe in balancing our global sustainability strategy against the needs and opportunities of each of the local markets in which we operate. In addition to the global sustainability milestones outlined above, we have many local sustainability initiatives in communities throughout the EMEA region. In this blog post, we’ll look at a few of these initiatives.
Heat recovery helps make European communities more energy efficient
One of the biggest sustainability challenges that data center operators face is the simple fact that IT equipment creates heat. The equipment must be cooled in order to continue functioning properly, which can be energy-intensive. Effectively managing heat in our data centers—such as using optimized airflow management and next-generation cooling solutions—is a big part of our energy-efficiency strategy. In addition, many of our European data centers are in colder climates that require heating for homes and offices. In these markets, data center heat can be an opportunity for the broader community to improve efficiency and access lower-cost, lower-carbon heating.
Recovering heat from data centers and making it available for use in local communities is one example of the circular economy in action. Heat is a byproduct of the energy we use to power our data centers; by recovering that heat and diverting it toward other productive activities, we’re further optimizing the potential of that energy. In turn, we’re reducing waste and making European communities more energy efficient—not to mention more energy independent.
Examples of Equinix heat recovery initiatives in Europe include:
- Helsinki: Equinix is partnering with Helen, one of the largest energy companies in Finland, to recover heat generated at two Equinix IBX® data centers in Helsinki. The recovered heat is then used across thousands of homes and businesses in the city.
- Frankfurt: By 2025, we aim to provide around 1,000 households with heat recovered from our Frankfurt data centers, free of charge. Through this project, we hope to reduce local fossil fuel consumption and support lower local CO2 emissions.
- Paris: Among the many sustainability initiatives in Equinix PA10, our newest data center in Paris, is a heat recovery technology project. The heat recovered from customer equipment in PA10 will be transferred to the urban heating network, where it will be used to heat the local community swimming pool.
Water recycling reduces waste and increases energy efficiency
Water is another precious resource that all communities must use wisely, and we’re working to support this goal in the EMEA region. One example is the water recycling initiative at the Lekki data center campus in Lagos, Nigeria. We’ve installed an agricultural drainage system, also known as a shallow borehole, to help keep the water pressure low around the basement of the building and make sure equipment inside the basement stays dry. Rather than discharging wastewater from the drainage system into the environment, we now filter the water for use inside the data center campus.
In addition to reducing the amount of wastewater discharged into the environment, the water recycling initiative also decreases the amount of energy the facility uses for water treatment. The shallow borehole agricultural pump now performs two different roles—adjusting water pressure around the data center and supplying water to the data center. In the past, the data center had relied on a deeper borehole pump as its main water source. We were able to take that pump offline and divert the energy it would have otherwise used. As a result, the data center has significantly reduced its energy consumption, use of chemicals, and pollution.
Investing in renewable electricity through power purchase agreements
To help meet our goal of 100% renewables coverage by 2030, Equinix is dedicated to investing in the development of renewable energy sources across all the regions in which we operate. One way that we aim to scale our impact is by entering into power purchase agreements (PPAs). These PPAs allow us to work directly with local developers to support the production of new renewables and help meet our long-term goals.
The PPAs we’ve recently announced in Europe bring our total PPA capacity to 715 MW globally. They include:
- Wind farms in Finland: We’ve announced PPAs with Neoen and Prokon for three new wind farms in Finland that are scheduled to come online in 2024, 2025 and 2026. Once operational, the three projects will provide a total of 129 MW of renewable electricity under long-term contract.
- Solar farms in Spain: We’ve announced solar PPAs in partnership with two different developers in Spain. Our PPA with Sonnedix includes three solar plants in Cuenca, which are scheduled to be operational by the end of 2024. The three plants will have a total capacity of 150 MW. Our partnership with INGIS includes PPAs for five different solar facilities in Spain, all of which are scheduled to come online in 2025. The five PPAs will provide a total of 225 MW of renewable electricity, more than the amount currently used across Equinix data centers in Madrid and Barcelona.
Supporting communities through urban farming and biodiversity efforts
Being a part of a community means not just doing business there but also striving to make a positive impact for all that reside there. This is why we’ve undertaken many initiatives to make a positive impact in the places we operate throughout Europe. Examples include:
Urban farming in Paris: The new PA10 data center in Paris features a rooftop greenhouse which grows fruit and vegetables to be distributed in the local community. The greenhouse uses a hydroponic system that aims to reduce water consumption and waste by only irrigating areas under cultivation. The greenhouse also utilizes heat recovered from the data center and retains rainwater to reduce the amount of water directed to local sewers.
Biodiversity initiatives in Ireland: In recognition of the key role pollinators play in biodiversity, our data center sites in Ireland feature pollinator-friendly planting and bug hotels installed on site and donated to the community. Furthermore, we’ve joined Orchards in the Community, an initiative that aims to send orchards to schools and other community organizations. This allows children to learn about the importance of protecting pollinators firsthand.
Tree planting in Poland: As part of the 15th anniversary celebration for PLIX, Poland’s largest commercial internet exchange, we participated in a tree-planting initiative. Equinix bought more than 3,000 trees to be planted, and sponsored 50% of every tree donated by community members. This allowed community members to participate in the initiative for as little as zł4.90 (about €1) per tree. Participants received a certificate with details about where the trees were planted and how their donations made a positive impact on the local environment.
Learn more about the Equinix approach to sustainability
At Equinix, we strongly believe that businesses can achieve long-term sustainability objectives while simultaneously pursuing short-term digital transformation goals. A truly future-proof business must be prepared to meet customer demand in all its many forms, including demand for sustainable operations. Through these sustainability initiatives, Equinix is also helping to green our customers’ supply chains.
To learn more about how Platform Equinix® can help you accelerate both your business and sustainability agendas, read our Sustainable Digital Transformation white paper.
 “Neoen and Prokon sign a third PPA with Equinix in Finland for at least 57 MW of wind energy,” Neoen, December 21, 2022.
 “Sonnedix Signs a 10-Year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Equinix for 150MWp Portfolio in Spain,” Sonnedix, May 4, 2023.