AWS Public Sector Blog

Helping governments and businesses pioneer sustainability initiatives: Top takeaways from the AWS Sustainability Conference

Sustainability is increasingly taking up a prominent role across all sectors and industries. Sustainability is now a crucial part of organisational strategy and the sustainability landscape is continuously evolving. There is a need to address sustainability challenges collectively and move organisations from reactive to proactive to unlock scalable business models.

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Sustainability Conference held in Dublin on February 21, 2023, gathered public sector and commercial organisations to came together to better understand how the AWS Cloud can drive sustainability initiatives. The conference focused on the importance of sustainability in business strategy, and how organisations can leverage the power of technology to achieve their sustainability goals. Leaders at the AWS Sustainability Conference discussed key best practices to optimize for sustainability initiatives.

Cloud technology can accelerate sustainability initiatives

Technology plays a key role in companies achieving their sustainability goals and unlocking value for organisations. Organisations that can capture the value of sustainability and digitalisation, the so-called “twin transformers,” are two-and-a-half times more likely to outperform peers.

At the conference, Mark Finlay, the public sector lead for Ireland at AWS, said, “A study carried out by 451 Research found that companies in Europe can reduce their energy use by nearly 80% when they run their applications on the AWS Cloud. Businesses could potentially reduce carbon emissions of an average workload by up to 96% when AWS reaches its goal of purchasing 100% of its energy from renewable sources, which we are on the path to do by 2025 – five years ahead of our goal.” In addition, Richard Nunan, partner in cloud engineering at Deloitte, said that “Migrating to the cloud is a key action, as hyper-scalers aim to be carbon neutral.”

Sustainability initiatives require a mindset shift

Organizations need a mindset shift to address sustainability challenges. Sustainability is not a cost centre, but rather an investment that generates value and opportunity by boosting performance, loyalty, and revenue. Sustainability also enhances resilience and prepares organisations for the future. According to Dr. Matt Kennedy, global lead for climate strategy, planning, and reporting and associate director of Arup, “Sustainability isn’t just reduction of energy but improvement of resilience of the business. Understanding risk and vulnerability are key, as is digitalization.” In addition, the types of skills required to deliver sustainability in organisations often requires a breadth of disciplines.

Sustainability initiatives require long-term vision and collaboration

The transition towards sustainability must be seen as a journey, an ongoing process that requires continuous improvement and the participation of the entire organisation. According to Kirsty Murphy Hughes from daa, “We need everyone engaged and onboard, helping to drive sustainability throughout an organisation. Scope, scale and speed in sustainability is shocking but it is a massive opportunity.” Collaboration is key to obtain a truly sustainable world. Paul van der Lingen, director of solutions architects from NetApp, discussed that by 2030, 1000 zettabytes of data will be generated, and 68% of this data will probably never used again. Data itself has more carbon dioxide than the entire airline industry. These are the potential places where collaboration is needed, and leveraging the power of technology is the key in addressing global sustainability challenges.

Sustainability initiatives create opportunities for equitable solutions

The focus on sustainability goes beyond the environment to include the social aspects of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG). EnergyCloud, which operates on AWS, has partnered with Clúid Housing, an independent Irish organisation that provides high-quality rented social housing for those who cannot afford their own home or private rented housing. Together, they launched a pilot project aimed at reducing renewable energy wastage and using it to heat hot water in homes experiencing fuel poverty. This initiative aligns with both the Climate Action Plan and the United Nations (UN) Sustainability Development Goals, as it aims to address the issue of energy poverty, which affects around 550,000 households, as reported by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). The project is live and is providing surplus renewable energy to families across Ireland, which would otherwise go unused.

Learn more about sustainability with AWS

By working together and leveraging the power of technology, public sector organisations and businesses can create a better future for all. Leaders at the AWS Sustainability Conference demonstrated how businesses can make sustainability a key part of their strategy and unlock future opportunities for growth.

Learn more about how organizations around the world use AWS to support sustainability solutions with customer case studies and more.

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Ciara McGovern

Ciara McGovern

Ciara is a programme manager on the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) Cross-Territories Initiatives and Programmes team at Amazon Web Services (AWS). Ciara is responsible for the Ireland public sector geo and leads the Sustainability Programme for this team, working in close collaboration with the in-country team and EMEA stakeholders. Prior to AWS, Ciara's background is in public policy, stakeholder engagement, and project management.

Alex Lima

Alex Lima

Alex is currently the sustainability lead for Amazon Web Services (AWS) public sector sales in Europe, responsible for helping customers and partners meet their sustainability goals through the application of technology. Alex works in close collaboration with the broader AWS and Amazon sustainability teams to help organisations leverage AWS Cloud services in delivery of their strategies and supporting them on their sustainability journey and move to Net-Zero Carbon. Alex is passionate about sustainability and working towards a greener and more resilient world. Prior to AWS, Alex worked across different sectors and countries for multi-national organisations covering a broad range of topics including energy and environment, corporate social responsibility, cloud procurement and strategy. For over 25 years, Alex has led multiple projects from idea conceptualisation to implementation with a high level of drive, enthusiasm, and determination to deliver on vision