With Earth Day celebrating its 53rd year this weekend we wanted to check-in with our sustainability lead Andrea Doukakis and hear the latest on ESG best practices for the data center industry.
How has the conversation around sustainability changed over the past decade? I started my career in the sustainability world nearly 10 years ago, and so much has changed in that short time. When I first came out of college, organizations were just starting to understand what sustainability was and what their role was in it… typically it was “eco-friendly” outliers who were making the first moves.
Fast forward to now and the industry has exploded – “sustainability” has morphed into ESG (environmental, social, governance), encompassing more than just environmental stewardship and expanding into social impact, governance and transparency, and more. Corporate awareness and participation in ESG practices have also grown exponentially, as ESG has grown from something that seemingly only Patagonia was leading to a topic that’s part of conversations at boardroom tables, alongside financial performance on meeting agendas, and getting the same attention from stakeholders and shareholders alike.
When it comes to the environment and sustainability what are the biggest opportunities for organizations? The E and S portions of ESG plans are what’s going to be most visible to employees and customers – environmental stewardship and social impact. Related to the E, I recommend building out our environmental stewardship plan to encompass target setting and tracking towards GHG emissions, energy efficiency, renewable energy, water, and waste. The S portion includes expanded or official company policies and metrics for DEI (diversity and inclusion), employee engagement/training, safety, health/wellness, and community engagement.
From the perspective of data center operations what should we keep top of mind from an ESG perspective? Data center operators must be focused on driving energy efficiencies through adherence to best practices and processes. Here at Evoque, we recently implemented an AI based dynamic data center temperature management platform that has already shown significant energy savings through more efficient computer room air handler (CRAH) and fan speed management. We can cool the data center effectively with less energy, which means fewer greenhouse gasses.
But, above all, we must focus on the health and safety of our workers, customers and vendors that enter and work around our data centers. It is our policy to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all our employees, contractors and visitors. Losses from injury, illness and mental stressors are also costly and preventable. We have employed an effective accident and illness prevention program to eliminate workplace hazards and positive mental well-being.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about ESG programs in your career so far? Transparency is key. So many organizations in recent years have jumped on the ESG train for various reasons (stakeholder pressure, PR, compliance with regulations, and just being the right thing to do) but I feel there are only a few who have made strides in ESG in a way that’s both transparent and replicable. Competition is a key part of business, but transparency and sharing success stories are of critical importance if we are to make a meaningful difference to combat climate change. Stakeholders are looking at ESG with a more critical eye as well, and organizations are taking note.
How has your education and work experience informed your work at Evoque? I received my Environmental Sustainability degree from the University of Maryland’s Individual Studies Program in 2014 (Go Terps!). That interdisciplinary education and subsequent experiences have given me a solid foundation in the ESG space, with a willingness to always learn more.
I have a diverse background, and I think that gives me the knowledge and nimbleness to succeed in an ESG role at Evoque. As a consultant for the Department of Energy, I supported energy efficiency and emissions reduction programs. I worked closely with data center partners to understand both their barriers and their best practices for data center sustainability across their building portfolios.
What excites you the most about this ESG as it relates to your work at Evoque? Evoque has made some progress related to ESG in recent years. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to come into Evoque with a fresh set of eyes and build an ESG program that is ambitious, impactful, and transparent. The data center industry has a huge impact on the environment and I’m looking forward to the chance to do my part in reducing that.