Doubling down on data

Doubling down on data

A typical data-driven business employing 100 full-time employees will generate more than two tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually due to new data. Data centres are also responsible for 2.5 to 3.7% of all human-induced CO2 – more than the aviation industry’s 2.1%.

A unique carbon footprint tool, the Data Carbon Ladder, has now been created to allow businesses to measure the CO2 output of their digital data. “In the push towards net zero, digital technologies have played – and continue to play – a critical role, but we must also be cognisant of the hidden data CO2 cost attached to the way society and organisations use digital technologies,” says Professor Ian Hodgkinson, research excellence framework lead at Loughborough Business School in the UK.

Each day, the average person creates 10 DVDs-worth of data via their phones, fitness trackers, emails, and anything else using ones and zeros to process information.

All these bytes are collected and processed by companies and stored at various data centres around the globe. By 2025, there will be an estimated 180 zettabytes of stored data – the equivalent of 6.8 billion years of continuous Netflix streaming.

By using the Data Carbon Ladder – believed to be the first of its kind – companies can make data-driven decisions that benefit the environment and save money by reducing reliance on carbon offsetting schemes. “Identifying and measuring the data CO2 footprint is essential for future decarbonisation strategies,” Hodgkinson points out.

“We are excited to announce the launch of the world’s first publicly available tool empowering organisations to assess the environmental impact of their data projects,” notes Tom Jackon, a professor of information and knowledge management and Hodgkinson’s colleague.

“With this tool, organisations can determine the carbon footprint of their data-related activities and explore better data approaches to reduce their data carbon footprint while driving down carbon emissions,” he continues. “By using this tool, organisations can make informed decisions to minimise their environmental impact while still achieving their business objectives.”

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