The cloud advantage: how digital transformation can accelerate the transition to net-zero

By Thomas Blood, EMEA Sustainability Leader, AWS.

  • 1 year ago Posted in

According to new research, the majority of business leaders in four European countries think that cloud technologies will accelerate the path to net zero carbon by two years or more.

Climate change is a threat to the future of business, individual wellbeing and the planet. But digital tools such as cloud present a promising path forward, and findings from the UN World Commission of Environment and Development have shown that the advancement of sustainable practices will be instrumental in protecting our global economy and ensuring the longevity of our planet for future generations.

Business leaders are too increasingly realising that modernising operations by using more digital tools – such as supply chain management or automated carbon accounting – will also help create a more sustainable world.

How are businesses effectively measuring their carbon emissions? 

To find out how organisations are managing the transition to net zero, Amazon Web Services (AWS) partnered with Atos, a leader in digital transformation, to commission a study to learn how business leaders are approaching decarbonisation.

A total of 4,000 firms across energy and utilities, financial services, and manufacturing, in four European countries, France, Germany, Spain and the UK participated in the study. Business leaders shared their thoughts on questions such as: How far have you come in the last few years? How are you cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? What are you struggling with? Where are you targeting your investments as you seek solutions? And how do you see the role of digital technology– in particular the cloud – in making greater strides toward decarbonisation?

Results show that 80% of businesses currently measure their carbon footprint, and nearly all of them (96%) have set emission reduction targets to lower their impact. Around 75% of European businesses feel confident of achieving their sustainability goals, although there are gaps between this belief and the reported levels of success.

The research also showed only 14% of business leaders have decarbonisation targets backed by science, as businesses lack the necessary instruments to measure emissions comprehensively. Unsurprisingly, Scope 1 emissions – those from direct operations – such as fuel combustion to support operations, and Scope 2 emissions, including purchased electricity, are easier to quantify and are measured by 76% of companies. Only 9% of businesses attempt to estimate the more difficult to quantify Scope 3 emissions, also referred to as value chain emissions, which often represent the majority of an organisation’s total GHG emissions.

Leveraging technology to meet net zero

The research found digital technologies can close the gap between business expectations toward sustainable practices and the reality of operations. Using technology to improve the accurate measurement of emissions is a priority for business leaders. This is particularly important as the research found that barriers to better management of GHG emissions included siloed data sources.

Cloud technologies accelerate the path to net zero by two years or more, according to the majority of business leaders surveyed (77%). The positive impact of cloud technologies includes enabling more efficient IT operations; data combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence providing new insights into customer behaviours; IoT, digital twins, and simulation driving operational efficiencies and cloud-enabled innovation. These solutions can lead to new business models, products and services aimed at achieving sustainability goals.

Purpose-led UK company DSM Animal Nutrition & Health, provides services and products for the health and wellbeing of farm animals, moved quickly to adopt cloud solutions. The goal was to support their development of bioscience solutions to improve human and animal health and reduce carbon output. They partnered with Oblivion Cloud Control, an AWS Premier Partner, to create Sustell. Sustell is a solution that uses AWS technologies to categorise data measurements such as carbon emissions, climate effects, water consumption and air pollution. Their solution also simulates scenarios for farmers to monitor their environmental footprints. In this way, farmers have been able to improve their practices both in productivity and sustainability, by analysing which animal feed has the lowest carbon footprint.

Despite the future-proofing ability of cloud solutions, around one-fifth of organisations have not adopted it yet. Some business leaders are perhaps only just realising how intertwined technology and sustainability are. Putting carbon reduction on the boardroom agenda is not enough. Real, effective, and accurate digital tools need to be implemented to reach societal goals in time. Advancing in the digital revolution is the best way for businesses to truly become more sustainable in support of Europe’s green transition.


By Rupert Colbourne, Chief Technology Officer, Orbus Software.
By Jake Madders, Co-founder and Director of Hyve Managed Hosting.
By David Gammie, CTO, iomart.
By Brian Sibley, Solutions Architect, Espria.
By Lori MacVittie, F5 Distinguished Engineer.
By Adam Gaca, Vice President of Cloud Solutions at Future Processing.
By Adriaan Oosthoek, Chairman Portus Data Centers.