Cloud sustainability: The environmental impact and sustainability of cloud computing

Mpg Cloud Sustainability 1920
03 June 2024 by Experis
featured Digital-Workspace business-transformation Cloud Infrastructure Enterprise Applications

Moving applications to the cloud can support businesses to reduce their emissions. It can reduce on-site energy usage, improve efficiency, and opens the door for secure remote working, meaning fewer trips to the office. If we look at companies through an individual lens, this seems like a great thing, but it is important to take a step back.

The surge in cloud computing adoption brings to light its environmental footprint, encompassing aspects from electricity and water use to land impact and e-waste generation. As businesses pivot towards greener practices, understanding the full spectrum of cloud computing’s environmental impact is essential.

Yes, the cloud can support your organisation in being greener, but it is vital to understand that not all providers are sustainability equal and while you are making the right steps forward, there is a still responsibility to ensure that supply chains are ensuring greener futures.

This article explores the nuances of cloud sustainability, highlighting the efforts of leading cloud providers like AWS, Google, Microsoft and others towards mitigating their ecological impact, supported by real-world statistics and examples.

The environmental footprint of cloud computing

Cloud computing, while efficient, demands significant electricity, primarily for powering hardware and cooling systems. Data centres, the backbone of cloud services, also require substantial water for cooling purposes. For instance, Google’s data centres consume an average 4.3 billion gallons of water per year. The heat generated by cloud operations and the considerable land needed for data centres add to the environmental concerns, prompting a need for sustainable solutions​​.

The shift towards green cloud computing

Despite the challenges, cloud computing presents an opportunity for businesses to enhance their sustainability. Transitioning from traditional on-premises setups to cloud services can lead to significant reductions in carbon emissions. For example, shifting to cloud computing is projected to prevent over 1 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions from 2021 through 2024, thanks to the efficiency of aggregated cloud resources​​.

Cloud providers’ sustainability efforts

Major cloud providers are actively working towards reducing their environmental impact. AWS, for instance, aims to become water positive by 2030 and achieve 100% renewable energy usage across its operations by 2025, with a long-term goal of reaching net-zero carbon by 2040. Google has already attained carbon neutrality and is striving to operate on carbon-free energy 24/7 at all its data centres by 2030. Microsoft, IBM and Oracle have set forth similar sustainability goals, showcasing an industry-wide push towards greener cloud services​​.

Renewable energy and innovative cooling technologies

To mitigate the environmental impact, cloud providers are investing in renewable energy sources and adopting innovative cooling technologies. Solar and wind power projects are increasingly common, with Google and AWS leading the charge in integrating renewable energy into their data centres. Advanced cooling solutions, such as liquid cooling and free-air cooling, are being employed to enhance energy efficiency and reduce the reliance on traditional, water-intensive cooling methods​​​​.

Real-world applications and industry benefits

Cloud-powered technologies offer significant sustainability benefits across various industries. Digital twins and machine learning, for instance, can optimise the energy and resource use of physical assets, leading to reduced emissions and enhanced efficiency. The manufacturing and transportation sectors stand to gain from cloud-enabled decarbonisation efforts, with potential for substantial energy savings and emission reductions​​.

Choosing the right cloud partner for sustainability

For businesses aiming to leverage cloud computing while adhering to sustainability principles, selecting a cloud provider committed to environmental responsibility is crucial. Evaluating providers based on their use of renewable energy, cooling technologies and overall sustainability initiatives can guide businesses towards making informed decisions that align with their green objectives.


As cloud computing continues to evolve, its environmental impact remains a critical consideration. However, through concerted efforts by cloud providers and the adoption of green technologies, the cloud holds the promise of not only transforming business operations but also paving the way for a more sustainable digital future. Businesses can contribute to this green transition by choosing cloud partners that prioritise environmental sustainability, ensuring that their move to the cloud supports broader ecological goals.

Cloud is opening numerous opportunities for organisations around the world but navigating the rapidly evolving digital landscape is tricky. Our latest whitepaper,Cloudy Waters – The IT Leaders Guide to De-risking Your Cloud Integration Project, is availablehereto support your cloud strategy.