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Crickets to champions


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Spencer Sells
Spencer Sells

One of the best parts of my job is having a dialog with customers when they come to our briefing center. Over the years, I’ve met many interesting individuals, and I’ve learned about many different cultures and industries. The experience is always enjoyable—well, almost always.

Lately, I’ve been asking customers what they’re doing to support their organizations’ decarbonization or sustainability goals. Crickets. I hear crickets. As in no response. And this is:

  • In spite of estimates that IT will soon consume between 4% and 8% of all electricity used around the world, and 68% of all data written and stored will never be read. Never. Given trends in the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and generative AI, I expect that percentage to increase.
  • In spite of the clear and increasing impact of our actions on the climate.
  • In spite of impending regulations requiring a reduction on carbon footprint.

Our responsibility—and yours

We in the world of IT need to do more to combat global warming and the environmental damage associated with the manufacturing, shipping, and operating of our hardware assets.

The good news is that we can, and some have started. NetApp® has corporate commitments to science-aligned reductions of 42% in scopes 1 and 2 emissions by 2030. That means that, unlike agencies that have targets for decades out, we—the current employees—must make changes now and live with them. And after we hit those targets, we’ll know what we need to do and by when to create the next set of targets.

We’ve also committed to reducing the intensity of our scope 3 emissions by 50% in that same time. Again, we employees must make changes to hit those targets and live with the cost of making those investments. In fact, we have made those investments and would be happy to share the benefits with you.

I’ll leave those specifics to another post because this post is about you. We cannot hit the scope 3 targets if you, our customers, do not make changes. My hope is that you’ll decide to become a champion for sustainability within your organization.

Tips for getting started with your sustainability goals

So, how do you get started? Here are four tips that I’ve learned from what we’re doing internally, and from conversations with numerous customers.

  • Tip 1: Setting goals requires a good understanding of your current state and of the 20% of operations and infrastructure generating your carbon footprint. Find the tool, or tools, that will provide you with a reliable overview of the impact of your infrastructure. It’s OK to start with a portion, refine your methodology, and expand the coverage of infrastructure as you go.
  • Tip 2: Connect your sustainability improvements in IT to corporate goals. If sustainability improvements are a pet project, they might not get started, and they might last for only a season. However, if you connect them to larger corporate goals, then they’ll have sticking power. There’s a good chance that your organization has decarbonization or sustainability goals. Or it will soon be required to have them. For many CEOs, improving sustainability is related to the bottom line: Reducing electrical consumption reduces operating expenses. Making sincere efforts to boost sustainability helps to attract and retain interested employees, especially those in their 20s and 30s. We’re seeing an increasing number of customers that require us to make sustainability improvements—and ones that are science-aligned and verifiable.
  • Tip 3: Connect with others in your company. When I started getting more involved in accelerating our efforts, I found that there were individuals in functional groups around the company who were already implementing actions to improve our scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions. However, they were isolated and felt alone. By simply connecting them to each other, we were able to help them get re-energized, share ideas, and collaborate to take on bigger efforts. We went even further and recruited more employees who volunteered to come up with ideas on how to move faster on our sustainability efforts; they then worked \on their own time to implement those ideas. That’s how much they care about the issue and NetApp.
  • Tip 4: When you get to work on your own sustainability efforts, find reliable partners. Insist that your vendors make verifiable commitments and efforts. I am tired of empty promises, greenwashing, and comparisons to unnamed systems from unnamed vendors. This issue is too serious for playing marketing games. We, NetApp, are committed to science-aligned targets, externally verifiable actions, and continuing to lead with real changes.

Become a champion

We can’t do this on our own. We alone can’t help you meet all your sustainability goals. But we want to work with you, and together we can make an impact. It’s time to start being a champion.

At NetApp, everything we do is intended to better serve our customers and the world we live in. That requires us to reduce our global operational carbon footprint, and to help customers manage their data so that they can achieve their sustainability goals. Sustainability is part of our DNA.

To learn more about NetApp’s sustainability efforts, read our 2023 ESG report or visit our sustainability webpage.

Spencer Sells

Spencer leads the Cloud Services Solution Planning team in the Cloud Data Services Business Unit focused on enabling customers to run workloads in public clouds. The team consists of product managers and solution architects that work on Cloud Volumes Service and Azure NetApp Files. Prior to this role, Spencer spent eight years at NetApp leading the product and solution management team responsible for providing the best storage for virtual server, virtual desktop, and cloud environments. Spencer has worked in enterprise storage industry for over twenty years. Prior to joining NetApp Spencer held various product management and product marketing positions for Brocade Communications, as well as product management, marketing and operations positions at Gadzoox Networks and Amdahl. Spencer holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Stanford University, and a Master of Arts in International Economics and Japan Studies from Johns Hopkins.

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