Attributing Carbon to Cloud
Discussion paper exploring ways that we can evaluate the carbon impacts of the digital services we outsource to data centres and cloud providers.
When organisations outsource digital activity to third party data centres or cloud service providers, there is a general assumption that efficiency improves, and that energy and carbon benefits are realised. But how do we know that this is true? When companies manage their own services, whether analogue or digital, they have access to relevant energy use data- at least in theory – firstly because they pay the bills, and secondly because they control the processes so they can attribute consumption appropriately. But when a service is outsourced to a third party the energy impact of that activity sometimes becomes much less transparent. So how can organisations demonstrate, with a reasonable degree of confidence, that their outsourcing decision is indeed delivering environmental benefits – or even more importantly, identify occasions when it is not?
This discussion paper explores how we can go about attributing carbon to the activity we outsource to third party data centres and providers. The objective is not to advocate cloud adoption or provide a calculation methodology, but to identify ways in which customers can understand these impacts, or at least estimate them robustly enough to inform their decision making.
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