Google announces sustainability initiatives

At the Google Cloud Next ’21 conference this week, Google picked up its pace on tackling climate change with announcements of new sustainability initiatives surrounding Google Cloud.

It began by announcing Carbon Footprint, a new service for customers that tracks gross carbon emissions associated with their Google Cloud Platform usage. Built in collaboration with Atos, Etsy, HSBC, L’Oréal, Salesforce and other Google customers, it tracks both the gross and net carbon emissions associated with the electricity use of the Google Cloud Platform. Google says the new tool can help customers easily show their investors and employees their carbon footprint and sustainability efforts, to address increasing pressure for Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) reporting.

Google has also published its methodology for calculating carbon footprints to make the stats easier to audit.

Actionable insights

Having new insights into sustainability is great, but Google is also introducing features to turn the data into actionable insights to reduce carbon emissions. Active Assist Recommender–a set of tools that eases cloud administration–will now include a new sustainability impact category. And with the new Unattended Project Recommender, customers will be able to estimate the gross carbon emissions they can save by trimming idle resources. The tool uses AI to predict which projects have been abandoned based on criteria such as API, networking activity, billing, and other parameters. The company revealed that Active Assist has already identified more than 600,000kg of gross CO2-equivalent waste associated with idle projects that could be scrapped. Google explained that cutting these idle projects not only lowers carbon output but also increases security by reducing a customer’s attack surface.

For businesses planning their expansion locations, Google has brought the Google Earth Engine to the Google Cloud Platform. Google Earth Engine is an platform that combines satellite imagery and geospatial datasets to help companies track, monitor and predict changes in the Earth’s surface due to extreme weather events or human-caused activities. This feature is currently in preview, but customers can now use Earth Engine data in other geospatial-enabled products like the cloud data warehouse BigQuery.

By bringing the Google Earth Engine to the enterprise, Google hopes that its customers can develop new solutions for responsible commodity sourcing, sustainable land management and carbon emission reductions. Earth Engine’s tracking of the impact of extreme weather events and human-focused activities will also help businesses cut down on operational costs and manage disaster risks.

Furthermore, Google is expanding its partnerships with Carto, Climate Engine, Geotab and other partners to integrate their data and core applications to Google Cloud globally. They integrate richer data on water availability, agricultural data, weather risks, and daily satellite imagery into the Earth Engine to help businesses establish new sustainability initiatives.

Internal efforts

Google is also making an internal push to combat climate change by including sustainability teams at the corporate planning table and helping developers choose more sustainable options in their application development process. It is also looking to track carbon impact as one of its key performance indicators, publishing third-party reviewed reports on its progress, and will increase its collaboration with the industry, including sectors like education and industry experts.

The company also highlighted some of its recent accomplishments. In the past four years, Google has matched all of its electricity use with renewable energy purchases. This, as well as its other efforts to decarbonize digital applications and infrastructure, is part of its ongoing journey to run its entire business on carbon-free energy by 2030.

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Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT World Canada. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at [email protected].

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