Progress on all fronts.
CEO Wiljar Nesse reflects on why our focus on sustainability never wanes.
“May you live in interesting times,” says the ancient proverb. 2020 was certainly an interesting year, but one in which DigiPlex continued to thrive and expand. Despite the challenges of COVID and the commercial and operational demand to build and deliver three new data center sites during the period, we nevertheless retained our sharp focus on sustainability. Ensuring that the digital revolution, accelerated by the additional demands brought on by the pandemic, remains fundamental to our purpose at DigiPlex.
The challenge for any fast-growing business is to remain vigilant and effective at minimizing environmental impact even as new clients are on-boarded, new sites built and handed over, and new members added to the team. At DigiPlex, operating at the heart of digital infrastructure essential to the way economies and societies operate, these pressures are even more acute. Over the course of 2020 our energy consumption grew by 25%. This was driven by existing customers expanding their capacity with us, by new customers at existing sites, and by the addition of new hyperscale customers at new purpose-built facilities.
Almost 70,000 tons CO2 saved
Yet, because of our commitment to use only 100% sustainably generated electricity, all this extra capacity was accommodated without adding to our CO2emissions. In fact, in 2020, by attracting this additional business to our 100% sustainable energy-powered data centers, we ‘saved’ almost 70,000 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. That’s how much CO2 would have been produced if our customers had chosen to instead place their new capacity in data centers powered by a typical electricity grid with a mixture of fossil-fuel and renewable energy. You can do the calculations yourself at the excellent EPA Calculator site.
Industry-leading water usage efficiency
But sustainability is more than just energy consumption. We’ve worked hard this year to also maintain and improve efficiency in water usage. Water is essential for cooling in data centers, but, even in wet climates like in the Nordics, it is a precious resource. We measure our water usage efficiency – how many liters of water we consume for every kilowatt hour of capacity we provide. Again, despite the rapid expansion in our estate and increasing demand from customers, we’ve held this constant at 0.6 l/KWh, a level well below the industry average of 1.8 l/KWh. We’ve also built rain and snowmelt capture systems into all our newer data centers so that we can minimize our demand from mains water sources.
Progress on all fronts
Overall, our 2020 Sustainability Report shows progress against all our goals in the six areas of ESG activity we’ve established, and despite the disruption of COVID we remain on course to hit them all within the deadlines we set. For example, 35% of our batteries are now of the newer, more environmentally friendly lithium-ion type, putting us in good position to replace all of our lead-acid type batteries by 2028.
Significant Contribution in a Developing Economy
We did make one change to the targets established in 2019, and it is a change that I am very proud of. Instead of investing relatively small sums in numerous local community programs in the financially strong Nordic region, we decided to invest a substantial sum in one project. We wanted to select a project that would make significant improvement in the lives of people living in developing regions where accessing basic services, that we take for granted, might be difficult and uncertain for them. After intensive investigations we decided to support an innovative scheme in Côte d’Ivoire in Africa. Run by UNICEF the ‘Plastic Bricks’ project transforms plastic waste into bricks used to build schools. This one scheme not only recycles waste into useful building material but creates jobs for the women involved and financial stability for their families. It creates schools for children, delivering education that enhances their prospects and builds the skills for economic growth and increased prosperity. As such our investment can have significant positive impact across many aspects of the lives of people in the region. Over the next three years our support will help the project convert 9,600 tons of plastic per year into construction material. UNICEF has committed to build +500 classrooms for more than 25,000 children, and to make a better living for +3,500 women plastic collectors.
Sustainability Top of the Agenda
Sustainability is simply too big an issue to be allowed to slip down the agenda – no matter the circumstances. In a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, our focus and commitment ensured that we still made significant progress on our sustainability agenda. The resilience we have in our business has enabled us to navigate the uncertainty caused as the virus swept the globe leaving almost no community untouched. Thanks to detailed planning, rapid reaction, the ongoing diligence and professionalism of our employees, together with the engaged cooperation from customers and other stakeholders, we have delivered rapid growth that has been matched by progress on our ESG agenda. This is a great achievement for the whole DigiPlex team.
Thought Leadership piece by DigiPlex CEO Wiljar Nesse