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How Cloud-Based Digital Technology Can Help Companies Achieve Sustainability Goals

By Selina Yuan

In a world grappling with pressing environmental challenges, businesses are under increasing pressure to pivot toward sustainability. It’s no longer just a moral imperative; it’s an operational necessity and a competitive differentiator.

As organizations scramble to align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), digital technology is emerging as a critical enabler, driving businesses toward a future where sustainability is at the heart of corporate strategy.

The use of sustainable technology has been identified as one of the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2024, according to Gartner, which highlighted this technology as a framework of digital solutions that can enable environmental, social, and governance (ESG) outcomes for the enterprise and its customers. Gartner expects that by 2027, 25% of CIOs’ compensation will be linked to their sustainable technology impact. When carefully and thoughtfully implemented, sustainable technology can be a valuable resource for helping to manage and lower organizations’ carbon emissions.

Greening the IT Infrastructure with Cloud

Among the frontier technologies, cloud computing plays a pivotal role in cutting businesses’ carbon emissions. The shift from traditional on-premise servers to cloud-based solutions has not only streamlined operations but has also significantly cut down energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with data management. Coupled with the adoption of renewable energy sources by major cloud service providers, there’s a clear path toward greener IT practices.

Businesses can reduce their carbon footprint by 84% on average when migrating to cloud services, an analysis by Accenture shows. More than 85% of companies will adopt a cloud-first policy by 2025, according to Gartner, which can be a critical measure for carbon reduction and efficiency enhancement for both businesses and the economy.

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Alibaba Cloud users can avoid 85.5% of emissions by switching from the traditional mode of locally deployed data centers and servers, according to the Carbon Trust’s report Alibaba Cloud’s Carbon Benefits. The use of cloud computing to enhance client capabilities led to a reduction of 6.863 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) of emissions in FY2023.

SaaS Sustainability Solutions

The rise of digital technology has transformed how Alibaba approaches sustainability, helping client organizations reduce energy use, improve efficiency, and make informed decisions about their energy consumption before taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions.

A streamlined solution can help enterprises automate the carbon accounting and reporting process and obtain real-time sustainability impact statistics for them to make informed decisions.

Alibaba Cloud’s AI-powered energy optimization and carbon-management platform, Energy Expert, is built on a cloud infrastructure that enables users to monitor, analyze, and optimize their carbon emissions and make informed actions to fulfill their sustainability goals. More than 3,000 organizations use the platform, saving 75% of the time and 90% of the cost of using traditional tools to measure their carbon footprint.

The availability of this platform is all the more critical, given the remarkable number of companies that have pledged to achieve a net-zero emission target. According to Net Zero Tracker, 929 companies from the Forbes Global 2000 list set net-zero targets by 2023 year-end, up from 417 in December 2020 and 702 in June 2022.

Malaysia, with its favorable business environment, advanced digital infrastructure, and strategic location, is well positioned to become a leading hub for the digital economy in the region.

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For its digital ecosystem platform, Edgenta NXT, Malaysia’s leading asset management and infrastructure solutions company, UEM Edgenta Bhd, uses Energy Expert to count and measure emissions and carbon footprint to support its emissions roadmap calculations. The sustainability software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution has helped Edgenta simplify the process, reduce errors, and prepare for a compliance exercise, and it has been instrumental in helping the company implement its ESG strategy.

Making Sports Greener

Large-scale international sports events are also using digital technology to drive for greater sustainability.

During the first Olympic Esports Week (OEW) last June, the event’s organizers deployed Energy Expert to measure and analyze carbon emissions from the event’s temporary construction, generating data-driven insights on the choice of materials and equipment. The event organizers used the platform to identify the sources of carbon emissions from venue construction and operation, quantify a venue’s carbon footprint, and visualize a venue’s sustainability performance using an integrated dashboard and online reports.

The Hangzhou Asian Games also used AI-powered tools to go greener, using Energy Expert to cut emissions in producing its licensed products and in the operations of stores inside the Asian Games’ villages. Using insights from the AI-powered platform, the organization optimized the carbon footprint of its mascots through its prebuilt calculation model that used public emission factors and proprietary data sets, increasing the use of solar power at its factories and adopting more eco-friendly designs that cut one mascot’s carbon footprint by 0.15 kg per item.

Building a Green Campus with AI

Alibaba Cloud also applies green technology to its own buildings with low-carbon standards and awareness of sustainability.

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The Alibaba Cloud Valley Campus facilities control uses Alibaba Cloud’s AI algorithms, combining industry expertise and AI models to manage all campus heating, air conditioning, and lighting for energy optimization. Since taking the Energy Expert platform online in December 2022, the Cloud Valley Campus has undertaken a series of optimization strategies to reduce energy consumption by around 26% in summer and 10% in winter.

The Path Forward

The digital era is redefining what it means to be a sustainable business. With advanced technologies at their disposal, companies are discovering innovative ways to reduce their environmental footprint while achieving their commercial objectives. As organizations continue to navigate the complexities of sustainability, digital technology will be the driving force that helps them thrive in a world that demands responsibility as much as business success.

Learn how Alibaba can help your organization achieve sustainability goals with digital technology.

Selina Yuan is President of International Business at Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.


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lisa nichols

My lisa Nichols is an accomplished article writer with a flair for crafting engaging and informative content. With a deep curiosity for various subjects and a dedication to thorough research, lisa Nichols brings a unique blend of creativity and accuracy to every piece

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