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Data Centres and Sustainability

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Sustainable ICT, Uncategorized

As part of the pan-governmental journey towards net-zero, DEFRA have developed an ICT sustainability strategy that aims to:

  • Reduce energy usage and carbon emissions
  • Increase resource efficiency by adopting a ‘circular economy’ approach.
  • Increase transparency throughout the supply chain
  • Establish a sustainability ‘Business as Usual’ approach by encouraging virtual collaboration and smarter ways of working
  • Provide net gains for the environment, in accordance with the 25 year Environment Plan

Reducing the carbon emissions associated with ICT within DEFRA requires careful consideration of its energy consumption both internally (Scope 2 emissions) and throughout the supply chain (Scope 3 emissions). A crucial area of focus is data centres, both within the DEFRA estate and those hosted externally. Data centres are incredibly energy intensive and inefficient. In 2019, the International Energy Agency estimated that the global electricity demand from data centres was 200 TWh (which equated to 0.8% of final electricity demand) (


Data centres are energy intensive primarily because of the cooling demand required to maintain their functionality, but there are also issues around hardware utilization as well as sustainability not being a fundamental consideration when it comes to data centre design and selection. It is for this reason that cloud migration has gathered significant momentum and is high on DEFRAs overall sustainability agenda. However, there are some ways in which data centre design and operation can be made more sustainable:

  • Utilising renewable energy
  • Smart facilities management, including remote energy & water consumption monitoring devices
  • Sustainable data centre certification (e.g. BREEAM/LEED)
  • Training (Certified Data Centre Sustainability Professional – CDCSP)

What are we doing?

DEFRA have partnered with external stakeholders to establish DESA (DEFRA E Sustainability Alliance) which is a collaborative working group comprising DEFRA and leading IT companies who are  in Defra’s supply chain to share best practise and implement innovative solutions that will help reduce energy consumption and curb emissions.

In order to manage and reduce scope 3 carbon emissions, DEFRA utilises robust procedures including supply chain vetting and a code of conduct for data centres to ensure that our partners to conform to the sustainable IT strategy described above. We also ensure there is a strict reporting process in place allowing us to track sustainability performance both quarterly and annually. DEFRA also has a strong relationship with the United Nations who have provided training to colleagues across the DEFRA group on climate change.

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