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Cloud migration could cut CO2 emissions by 60 million tonnes a year

Migration to the public cloud can achieve significant carbon reduction in the form of a 5.9% decrease in total IT emissions, or nearly 60 million tons of CO2 globally per year – the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road, according to new research from Accenture.

The report — The Green Behind the Cloud — outlines how companies can achieve the most value from environmentally-friendly use and operation of cloud services, regardless of where they are on their cloud journey.

Businesses are facing more pressure to solve large socioeconomic challenges and shift toward more responsible and sustainable practices while boosting profitability.

The latest Accenture Strategy-UNGC study found 59% of CEOs say they are deploying low-carbon and renewable energy across their operations today while 44% see a net-zero, carbon neutral future for their company.

Moreover, two-thirds view technologies like cloud as critical factors for accelerating change and making their commitments a reality. 

“Sustainable cloud can deliver a double helix effect of shareholder and stakeholder value by simultaneously reducing costs and carbon emissions,” said Peter Lacy, a senior managing director and global sustainability lead at Accenture.

“Further, the magnitude of carbon reduction achieved through cloud migrations can go a long way in meeting climate change commitments and driving new levels of innovation, ultimately leading to a greener balance sheet and a greener planet.”

Adding to the significant environmental impact, sustainable cloud solutions deliver key financial benefits.

Accenture’s analysis, based on its work with clients, shows up to 30-40% total cost of ownership savings from public cloud, driven by greater workload flexibility, better server utilisation rates and more energy-efficient infrastructure.

According to the report, the sustainability and financial benefits from cloud migration will vary based on three key factors: the cloud provider selected, the ambition level for cloud optimisation, and the level of cloud-enabled sustainability innovations.

“Companies are rapidly moving to the cloud for innovation and cost-savings, and sustainability must also be considered as a primary driver,” said Paul Daugherty, group chief executive, technology and chief technology officer for Accenture. 

“However, there is no one size fits all approach to sustainable cloud journeys — companies must understand the migration, design, and engineering decisions that will directly determine how sustainable their solutions are and the benefits they drive.”

Accenture analysis shows initial cloud migrations alone can reduce carbon emissions by more than 84% compared with conventional infrastructure. Reductions can be pushed even higher — by up to 98% — by designing applications specifically for the cloud.

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