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At Oracle, sustainability isn’t a slogan. It’s a concerted, constant, company-wide effort to do all we can to protect natural resources, minimize adverse environmental impacts, and lead the way toward a more sustainable future.
Oracle has taken this mission to heart for years. We’ve long been at the forefront of delivering the innovations that foster tangible change by empowering the world’s largest companies to do their part in protecting our planet.
On this Earth Day, I asked Jon Chorley, Oracle’s Chief Sustainability Officer, to discuss some of these efforts and the ongoing role Oracle will play in fighting climate change and ushering in a more sustainable future.
Q: The cloud has been a game-changer in how we consume technology. It democratizes access to powerful computing resources and empowers businesses of all sizes with enterprise-grade capabilities—but it also is rapidly becoming one of the world’s largest consumers of electricity. What can be done to limit the environmental impact of running these systems?
JC: That’s absolutely true. But first, it’s useful to step back and not only consider the power consumption of the cloud, but also that of the technologies it replaces.
Because as workloads move into the cloud, they move out of on-premises data centers. And clouds can operate at economies of scale not only in their computing efficiency, but also their power consumption. The cloud is also highly elastic and flexible, which means enterprise applications—either our software-as-a-service applications, or custom and third-party solutions running on our infrastructure—are far less likely to overbuild their capacities using resources unnecessarily.
Meaning, even if Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and other large public clouds just used traditional energy sources (such as those derived from fossil fuels), they would still, as a whole, have a positive impact on net global emissions just by consolidating demand.
But in addition to these inherent benefits of the cloud, Oracle has committed to our cloud being entirely powered by renewable energy by 2025. This achievement isn’t, in practicality, possible for the aggregate of on-premises data centers running a comparable number of workloads.
And energy efficiency isn’t the only environmental benefit we’ve achieved with Oracle Cloud. We’ve implemented circular processes that design waste out of our supply chain. Through our efforts focused on disassembling and recycling, we have delivered a major improvement in material efficiency and are proud to have a reuse or recycle rate of 99.6 percent.
Q: How does Oracle empower its customers to run more environmentally conscious businesses?
JC: That’s a really important question, as we see enabling customers as the key component of our sustainability efforts. Sure, there’s a lot we can do internally. But if we can make even a fraction of that difference across our customer base, that’s a massive multiplier to anything we can do within our organization alone.
As previously mentioned, sustainability is a critical component of how we operate the Oracle Cloud. That enables customers to migrate either apps or infrastructure, and decommission at least some of their privately operated servers. By doing nothing more than that, our customers’ workloads will consume less power while helping them realize cost savings and security benefits.
Another way we can apply our own capabilities to this goal is through the enterprise technologies and software tools that hundreds of thousands of customers around the world use every day.
Take for example d.light, a solar energy technology provider that delivers power to more than 100 million people in 70 countries. The company has used Oracle data warehousing and analytics to glean insights that make it easier for its customers to make the transition to renewable energy.
It’s important to note that transportation produces more than 28 percent of global emissions. Our customers in the automotive industry – including global giants like Toyota – are using Oracle’s data visualization solutions to design more efficient vehicles.
We’re also empowering companies with large distribution networks to make those critical business processes more sustainable, and Unilever is a prime example. The consumer goods giant has deployed Oracle Fusion Transportation Management to optimize its vehicle use, which reduces waste, fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and other pollutants.
In addition, there are food producers like LiDestri that are using Oracle Fusion Demand Management to significantly reduce inventories. Through improved forecasting accuracy, LiDestri has decreased its food waste by 50 percent.
Q: What emerging technologies is Oracle bringing to market that will deliver even greater energy efficiency and environmental benefits in the years to come?
JC: This is a definitely an exciting time in our industry, as numerous advanced technologies have the potential to transform entire industries in ways that better conserve resources, limit pollution, and protect the natural environment.
One of the most promising of them is artificial intelligence. AI, and its underlying technology of machine learning, is groundbreaking in its ability to show us how to achieve greater efficiencies across nearly all business processes.
One of our customers, the UK’s National Grid, has used Oracle Cloud’s machine learning features to improve its ability to predict renewable energy availability by 40 percent, based on weather patterns. This allows the utility to deliver more renewable energy to customers, which is one of the reasons the UK hit a historic milestone of producing nearly half of its electricity from renewables in 2019.
And AI isn’t only benefitting the environment through greater energy efficiency. A company in the Oracle for Startups program, AgroScout, is finding ways to enable more sustainable agriculture by using AI to apply pesticides only where they are needed, rather than using blanket application methods. By knowing which pests and diseases to treat, growers can save money, improve yields, and feed more people.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is another likely game-changer.
Cities are at the forefront of battling climate change—they consume 78 percent of the world's energy and produce more than 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. BlocPower is helping cities keep their commitments to emissions reduction with an IoT-enabled platform from Oracle that converts entire city blocks into smart buildings.
Another emerging technology we are making accessible to cutting-edge companies aiming to solve environmental challenges is blockchain.
Oracle customer Retraced is using Oracle Blockchain to provide product provenance for fair trade organizations, helping their consumers make conscious choices. Only blockchain can deliver this level of transparency.
Q: What is the business case for sustainability?
JC: There’s a virtuous circle through which doing the right thing for the planet and for the business reinforce each other. The reasons are simple.
Customers want to know their technology vendors share their values—that they are spending their dollars with a company that is part of the solution, not the problem.
That’s long been true, but in recent years there’s been a dramatic rise in the sense of urgency, from the boardroom on down, for embedding positive environmental and social impacts across all aspects of the business. This has been accompanied by a greater recognition of the foundational role technology plays in supporting such initiatives.
For some customers, those factors help them decide that Oracle is the right partner for them. They want to see we build those shared values into the technology we design and sell, and the services we deliver.
At the same time, many enterprises look to do business with technology vendors that provide solutions that can help them make their own operations greener and more sustainable.
There’s also a recruiting and talent retention element to sustainability. In our most recent annual sustainability survey, 92% of the participants noted that working at a company that takes its environmental responsibility seriously improves their commitment to that company.
We offer a number of programs that encourage and enable our employees to make a difference. They can join the tens of thousands of Oracle employees that participate in our volunteering programs every year or the many grassroots ‘Green Teams’ we support in countries all over the world.