A pioneer in ensuring responsible sourcing of paper for its brands, including the likes of Bild and Die Welt, Axel Springer, Europe’s largest digital publishing house of multimedia brands, wants to extend its sustainability reputation to include data storage.
When Axel Springer published its first environmental report in 1994, it followed a four-point guideline:
1. Raise environmental consciousness among readers, business associates and employees;
2. Promote environmentally friendly production of raw materials by exerting a positive influence on suppliers;
3. Use environmentally efficient technologies and materials in all corporate divisions to reduce the burden on the environment, use materials sparingly and ensure their reusability; and
4. Avoid or reduce the environmental impact of the company by reducing energy and water requirements, emissions and waste per unit produced.
A quarter of a century later, those four pillars still serve as the foundation to the many measures introduced by the company in the interests of environmental protection. But while the goals remain the same, the measures need to change. Axel Springer, which by January 2019 was generating more than 80 per cent of its operating profits through digital offerings, acknowledges that value and supply chain practices targeting responsible sourcing and use of paper need to be expanded to include responsible storage and distribution of data and content.
“Axel Springer was one of the first suppliers to push for transparency and high standards with regard to sustainable forest management in paper production. This is exactly what the company now wants to do with its digital products,” explains André Twachtmann, Head of Infrastructure Services at Axel Springer. Twachtmann is responsible for the ‘accommodation and supply’ of Axel Springer’s data. This means new challenges and areas of compliance the company has never experienced. In the course of digitisation and internationalisation, Axel Springer had around 200 consolidated subsidiaries at the end of 2017.
The company wants to be able to record as accurately as possible the amount of electrical energy used whether directly or indirectly in external data centres to therefore derive the CO2 climate-impacting footprint and in turn to influence it with the use of key performance indicators. This is vital information not only for the company, but also consumers of Axel Springer’s output. “For example, the total electricity consumption in relation to sales could serve as an indicator for the customer,” says Twachtmann. “We are talking to various providers about innovative ways of calculating this factor.” The end goal is a formula that would determine the server providers’ power consumption caused by Axel Springer data storage and distribution. It’s no easy ask.
Cloud services, as one example, is a shared service that Axel Springer shares with many other customers. Hence specifying how much of the total power consumption is due to Axel Springer’s data can be a complex and complicated task. Nonetheless, Axel Springer needs the information to be able to conclude new contracts with such service providers. The company wants to be in a position to produce a concrete value once a year that provides an answer to the question: “How much of the server provider’s energy consumption does Axel Springer cause with its data?” It remains an ongoing concern and Axel Springer will continue to work with various providers to find innovative ways to calculate this factor and to improve its sustainability management and value offering. “We want to be pioneers,” says Twachtmann.
Author: Jon Watkins. Done in partnership with FIPP - Connecting Global Media.