Sustainability has gained a place at the forefront of business strategy. Climate concerns are pushing businesses to revamp their sustainable business models to keep pace with the evolving work environments and innovation. As a result, organizations are becoming increasingly conscious about how to conduct business to make the most negligible impact on our climate.
According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests , electronic waste (e-waste) generation has been increasing faster than plastic waste, with e-junk witnessing 31% annual growth in 2019-2020. The e-waste was 7.71 lakh tonnes in 2018-19 and 10.14 lakh tonnes in 2019-20. India collected just 10 percent of the e-waste generated in the country 2018-19, as per a report by the Central Pollution Control Board. The data demands will grow when enterprises start conducting business in the metaverse, which can potentially heighten the electronic waste problem. As the metaverse becomes more integrated with the real world, organizations will have to prepare for the next stage of digitization and storage demands, while prioritizing sustainability.
This presents an opportunity to examine the sustainability of advanced electronics manufacturing from the perspective of a data storage provider.
Step 1: Climate Goals
There is a possibility of sustainability goals being undermined with the massive amount of data created and, therefore, data storage needed in the metaverse. A sustainable augmented or virtual reality is fraught and hindered by the high consumption of non-renewable energy, waste production, and CO2 emissions. Enterprises must set climate goals and commit to sustainable initiatives and agreements that hold their operations accountable and ensure they operate responsibly. For example, the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is an alliance between non-profit CDP, the UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute, and the World Wide Fund for Nature. Participants in this initiative are committed to combating climate change in alignment with the latest climate science.
Step 2: Physical Facilities
The subsequent question is where to store this massive amount of data. More local data centers may look at moving their data into the cloud– minimizing the amount of physical data centers. Additionally, large cloud service providers are investing heavily in sustainable energy sources. For example, Google is aiming to run data centers on completely carbon-free energy by 2030, and Microsoft has pledged to do so by 2025. This all leads to hyper-awareness among enterprises around the sustainability of their manufacturing practices.
Enterprises can generate their own power onsite by investing in solar facilities, drawing less traditional energy away from the grid, and reducing their carbon footprint.
Step 3: Product Manufacturing:
Every part of a product’s life cycle – extraction of materials from the environment, the production of the product, the use phase, and what happens to the product after it is no longer used – can have an impact on the environment in unique ways. Many businesses are developing product life cycle assessments to evaluate the overall environmental impact. The goal is to follow a product’s timeline (production, distribution, use and end-of-life phases) and ensure full accountability and transparency.
Step 4: Circular Economy:
Unfortunately, large amounts of electronic waste end up in landfills and contaminate soil and groundwater, putting food supply systems and water sources at risk. The proper disposal of products can be resolved by implementing recycling programs or giving consumers the option to recycle their old products. For example, Western Digital has started the Easy Recycle program in the United States to make it easier for consumers to help reduce the impact on our planet. Customers can ship old products back to the company for free or drop them off at local shipping stores to allow for an easy, environmentally-friendly disposal, diverting many tons of waste from landfills.
Step 5: Supplier Network:
A sustainability strategy focused solely on internal operations can miss very significant upstream impacts. That’s why supplier engagement on sustainability issues is crucial to an effective sustainability program. It is important to educate and train supplies on sustainable business practices. Participate in joint sustainability initiatives can strengthen relationships and amplify sustainability progress at the same time. While it is exciting to consider shifting work, life, and play online into the metaverse, this process will create huge demand for data storage. Enterprises getting ready for web 3.0 and experimenting with how to do business at the convergence of emerging technologies will potentially create a massive online footprint. This will invariably generate an incredible need for data storage, and if not done thoughtfully, this may lead to more products and more waste. The metaverse may be virtual, but if we don’t find ways to reduce our collective footprints, its environmental impacts could be real.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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