back to article What are server makers really doing to and for the climate?

Every year the likes of Dell, HPE, Lenovo, and others trot out their annual environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reports and boast to the world how responsible they are. These reports are often filled with stock images of happy employees, big colorful illustrations of the various initiatives they've undertaken over the …

  1. Potemkine! Silver badge

    the numbers don't lie

    Can we be sure? Are those numbers certified by external and independent organizations?

    The ratio CO2 produced/Energy used is the best and by far for Lenovo. What's the explanation behind such an efficiency?

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      "What's the explanation behind such an efficiency?"

      They're Chinese and they're lying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Wow - open racism

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          No Pooh. It's not.

      2. Grunchy Bronze badge

        You don’t need to be Chinese to be a liar, and (like any other group) most Chinese are not liars.

        (I’d actually been to China & met many honorable people there.)

        1. C 7

          True. But we also know that:

          1) Chinese businesses are heavily influenced by the Chinese government (and in many cases at least partially owned by the government).

          2) The Chinese government has a propensity to lie about a great many things (even more than the average government, which is already not overly trustworthy).

          Ergo, it stands to reason that their numbers may be an outright lie, not because of their ethnicity or race, but because of influence from the Chinese government.

          I read that comment as "They're [being heavily influenced by the] Chinese [government] and they're lying." I can't say for sure that was the intent, but with all the industrial espionage and similar issues coming from China (and likely attributable to the Chinese government) it would make sense.

  2. tatatata

    The absolute numbers are one side of the story. It would be nice to know how that translates to CO2 per laptop, for example. If HPE crunches-out four times as much laptops, then it would be logical that Lenovo produces only a quarter of the CO2 output.

    What I fail to understand is how you become a greener company by buying some virtual tokens (REC).

    1. Killfalcon

      In theory, it's to recognise that you can't make your stuff greener than it is, so instead you find someone who's significantly greener and give them money so you can take credit for their savings.

      It's a way to incentivise being greener even when you're in an industry no-one pays attention to, or even promote new businesses to setup specifically to run carbon-sinks or whatever.

      In theory. I've no idea how well it's running in practice.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        In addition, the number of tokens available is reduced each year, meaning they become steadily more expensive.

        Steadily more expensive means that companies unable to reduce their CO2 emissions suffer more and more financial pain until they have to change.

        The corollary to steadily more expensive is "steadily more valuable" to companies that are able to reduce their CO2 emissions and are, therefore, able to profit from selling their excess permits. This gives an incentive to keep reducing emissions even after they've met their "target".

        It's this double incentive that makes pollution permits very effective.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The wild west of reporting emissions

    The vendors are all using wildly differing calculation models and many are ignoring the vast amount of their actual emissions and focusing only on those related to power.

    You can't trust any of the data at all and to make matters worse they aren't exactly making it easy to extract it from them.

    They make billions of dollars of profit every year but can't dedicate the time or resource to make this easier.....

    Bunch of greenwashing shysters

  4. Grunchy Bronze badge

    Futile?

    All the companies mentioned have one overarching goal and that’s to earn a profit and capture more of the market. They are merely another consumer of energy and resources that impact the environment, same as any other consumer. Sure you could theoretically choose to buy more expensive, less impactful energy and resources but that acts counter to your overarching goal of maximizing profit. The manufacturer with the lowest environmental impact is the one that is most bankrupt, again opposite to the overarching goal of growing market share. All the companies mentioned are motivated to increase their environmental impact, not reduce it (duh). I have an inkling that this ESG problem/opportunity had been assumed by each of the companies’ Marketing Departments, whose job is to tell whatever lies are necessary to keep the ball rolling. This is more an issue of “communication” than achieving any costly environmental goals.

    1. NATTtrash Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Futile?

      Indeed. And Marketing does what Marketing does best: take something small and insignificant, and blows it up to be front and center life essential.

      Meanwhile, numbers also show that society, so humans, keep on consuming more and more energy like there is no tomorrow. And yes, that's you and I...

      What this story, and many/ all environmental stories seem to pass over is that the human species is the only species that destroys its own living environment consistently, fails to live in harmony with its surroundings in any kind of way, and ignores/ doesn't care/ ignorantly considers it somebody elses problem. In the end it comes down to that the smart ape, which considers itself superior to all other species, is sitting with a plastic bag over its head, being smug, not even noticing that the oxygen is running out. Sure, do a(n other) conference. Buy tokens. Go on the streets and protest! But then, on the way back home (bet you're not walking, right?), you figure out that the slogan on the banner was kind of wrong. The planet doesn't need saving. It was here long before you came down from the trees. And it will be there after the last human perished. Maybe it's the humans that need saving. But I suppose that conversations with those other humans showed you that... well troublesome. They all seem to have issues, like yourself to be fair, why that doesn't work right now. But we're working on it! For your grand children! Because of course it are those stupid other people who are messing it up. Hmmm, better check your (energy consuming) phone what the others in your bubble say about the best ethical (uniquely human of course) approach while you consume your (sold as) ecological balanced nourishment...

  5. Zolko Silver badge
    Holmes

    what about the "cloud"

    Nice article, but what I'd be VERY much interested is the carbon footprint of "cloud" companies. At work we are told to travel less and do more cloudy stuff - videoconferencing, shared documents, online whatever - and while this sound good at first sight, I've been told by others that the HUGE infrastructures of these data-centers consume MORE energy than what the actual travel would. Meaning that if we went back to "normal" work we'd use less energy than now.

    Are there numbers to compare this ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: what about the "cloud"

      The cloud providers provide crappy inaccurate carbon emissions reporting capability. They exclude around 80-90% of their actual emissions and use old info to work out the numbers.

      They are more focused on convincing gullible punters to build more on their platforms than they are on giving accurate numbers.

  6. imanidiot Silver badge

    These numbers are useless

    Without a way to compare these numbers based on a shared ratio/basis any energy or CO2 output number is completely and utterly useless. CO2 output for how much product? Are we talking 1 GW per terraflop of computing power or 1 Watt per terraflop? 1 kg of CO2 per laptop or 1 ton (metric or otherwise) of CO2 per laptop?

    A company that produces 2000 times the products and only produces 2x the amount of CO2 and uses only 1.5x the amount of energy of it's direct competitor is a heck of a lot greener, even if in absolute numbers it's producing twice the CO2 and using more energy.

  7. Medixstiff

    Having dealt with HP, Lenovo and Dell notebook products, I can say HP are the worst for excess packaging, especially how many pieces of paperwork have their own zip lock bags, which whilst a waste., at least I use when I can.

  8. kbuggenhout

    Apples to apples please

    Dell is more than a server company.

    Hpe”s numbers must be added with HP inc.”s numbers to be Representative.

    Lenovo is also a much smaller company than the other 2.

    Maybe put things in perspective with number of employees, shipped units etc, and compare the c-footprint per unit shipped…

    A country like monaco consumes less power than the united states, but is it greener ?

    Hollow numbers that are not even comparable because of statistically incompatible data

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please...try a bit of "do-it-yourself".......it might do you some good!

    So....we hear about "servers" and about "the cloud".....and the main thrust of all this is this:

    (1) Someone out there (Amazon, M$, Oracle, and so on) will take your money in exchange for "doing it all for you in the cloud""

    (2) ...so that you don't have to anything yourself....you know, no backups, no system maintenance, no software updates....

    ....and so on.......until the network connection goes down....until "the cloud" gets a "solar winds" hack....until a ransomware hack........until you find that your AWS environment has been set up (by your buddy) with zero security.....and so on.........

    It's just amazing that there are so many intelligent people out there who JUST DON'T GET IT:

    (3) If you are responsible, then you simply CANNOT subcontract the responsibility (to Amazon, to M$...or to anyone else!)

    (4) ...even if you've convinced the board of directors that "the cloud is cheaper"!!!

    Yup....cheaper......until the lawyers come calling!!

    How about doing some of the cost/benefit/risk/climate assessment YOURSELF? Maybe a dedicated data centre or two (of your own?) might make a bit of sense?

    Oh.....and you get to employ YOUR OWN STAFF, so the "support" from the cloud provider (you know....AWS, M$) might look a bit skewed (perhaps in favour of AWS, M$, etc)!

  10. darklord

    when things get sticky with carbon trading and credits mark my words the companies in question will suddenly find the money and resources to move manufacturing to other countries where they have a low carbon emitting industry like turkey, just like ford did with the transit factory in Southampton. Still production at the new facility produces vast amounts of CO2 yet because the manufacturing country overall (Turkey) co2 production is so low they get offset carbon credits. and can therefore say look how green we are cause the countries overall emissions are still below accepted averages across the world.

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