Cloud Computing

Google adds features to ‘Carbon Footprint’ for Google Cloud tool

The company announced new goals at its Sustainability Summit.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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In October 2021, Google announced its “Carbon Footprint” for Google Cloud—a reporting dashboard that tracks carbon emissions derived from the company’s popular suite of computing services.

More than a year later, Google has grown its Carbon Footprint footprint. At its first Sustainability Summit last month, Google announced additional features to the platform.

  • Scope it out: Carbon Footprint’s first version supplied what’s known as scope 2 data, or the indirect emissions from purchased energy. The service now offers insight on scope 1 (emissions sources that an organization directly controls) and scope 3 (indirect emissions along a supply chain).
  • Low mode: With the “low-carbon mode” feature enabled, organizations can now be more selective with data centers. “This basically would enact a policy for [an] organization’s cloud usage that would say, ‘Hey, only use the most carbon-free locations to distribute your workloads,’” Chris Talbott, Google sustainability lead, told IT Brew.
  • Workspace: To track the energy usage of tools like Gmail and Meet, Google’s announcement noted that Carbon Footprint for Google Workspace will be available early next year.

The announcements arrive as a growing number of companies—including Mastercard, Microsoft, VMware, and Apple—have announced commitments to significantly reduce emissions.

The research consultancy Gartner, in addition to finding that environmental sustainability has moved up among CEOs’ strategic business priorities, drew this conclusion: By 2025, the carbon emissions of hyperscale cloud services will be a top-three criterion in cloud purchase decisions.

“Overnight, every organization's greenhouse gas emissions data is going to need to look like the quality of its financial data, in terms of trust, timeliness, and comparability,” said Patrick Flynn, Salesforce’s global head of sustainability,  at Google’s summit..

Salesforce, which runs apps and infrastructure on Google Cloud, has been sharing its emissions data voluntarily since 2012, and the CRM company’s Net Zero Cloud service offers insights into customers’ carbon output.

Google, too, has its own sustainability goals: to go carbon-free across all operations by 2030.

“By 2030, our hope is that every email you send, every question you ask Google Search, every virtual machine you spin up across all of our platforms, this will be supplied by carbon-free energy, every hour of every day,” said Kate Brandt, Google’s chief sustainability officer, at the summit.

Google’s sustainability-specific tools sit alongside a growing field of emissions-tracking products. Companies like WatchWire, Emex, Metrio, and SAP offer analytics on an organization’s energy usage.

While the term “carbon footprint” was first popularized by the British oil and gas company BP’s advertising team, the term remains associated with efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses and increase sustainability. These eco-friendly initiatives may help vendors stand out.

“There’s opportunity to integrate sustainability characteristics in the same way that you would price performance and resiliency,” said Talbott.—BH

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Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming. Our IT Brew newsletter delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.