AWS Public Sector Blog

How two UK customers use AWS to support sustainability goals

Sustainability is now an integral part of business strategy, even as the sustainability landscape is continuously evolving. Technology, data, and innovation play a fundamental role in helping governments, organisations, and society address sustainability-related challenges. At the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Day 2023 held in London, public sector leaders gathered to learn and share how technology can help organisations achieve more with less in solving sustainability challenges. Two AWS customers shared how they’re rethinking traditional operations and innovating with the cloud to support their sustainability initiatives.

Increasing transparency in carbon emissions to lower climate impact

In 2022, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the UK Government embarked on a number of initiatives that used AWS to reduce their carbon footprint. Through carrying out an AWS Well-Architected Sustainability Pillar Review and by using AWS Compute Optimizer, DWP increased some workloads’ utilization from 39% to 60% in 12 months—eliminating compute infrastructure waste, increasing performance, and reducing cost.

In 2022, DWP worked with the UK Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to enhance the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from their IT infrastructure to improve the accuracy of DWP total information technology (IT) carbon emissions figure, supplementing the initial data in the AWS Customer Carbon Footprint tool. The longer-term plan is to have emissions data at an application level to actively manage down the emissions footprint from IT service provision. DWP also incorporated climate change-related evaluation criteria in their public procurement vendor selection process and trialled a requirement for emissions monitoring during the contract lifetime for two of digital contracts. Tony Sudworth believes that we need “to move to active management to reduce overall emissions from IT activity in order to meet our Greening Government commitments. This will require a reduction of 7-8% year on year to meet the 68% reduction required by 2030. Data centre services will be a critical part of how we do that.”

Sustainability is a journey that requires continuous improvement and the participation of the entire organisation, and these initiatives require organisations to rethink some of their ways of working. To this end, DWP is encouraging hybrid working, looking at extending the life of their employees’ laptops to limit unnecessary technology waste, and exploring different operating systems.

Rethinking data operations to support sustainability goals

In July 2022, UK temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius for the first time ever. During this heatwave, the UK Meteorological Office (Met Office) released their first ever Red Warning for heat, issued in the event that there is a high chance that civilians will feel dangerous impacts of weather. As observed by the Met Office, the signs of climate change are increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events like heat, drought, and flooding. Each extreme weather event creates unique and widespread socioeconomic effects that impact communities differently, depending on a wide array of factors, that can be challenging to plan for. However, new advances in technology such as the AWS SimSpace Weaver, can help governments, organizations, and businesses simulate, predict, plan for, and prevent the worst in different weather events.

Jeremy Tandy, principal fellow at the Met Office, shared, “Better simulation can help to understand variability in hazards from place to place. With a more local understanding, society can put in place targeted mitigations—like changing the crop type to be more drought resistant, or building bridges so they’re more resilient by being above extreme flood height.” The Met Office is working to bring critical climate change forecasting information to governments, organizations, and businesses so they can better prepare for and prevent climate-related disasters. The Met Office also uses AWS to deliver valuable weather data to three million people through its mobile weather app.

Every weather forecast and climate prediction that is generated through compute does invariably equate to energy costs and environmental impact. The Met Office balances increased use of compute for improved weather and climate prediction against its own sustainability goals – which include being carbon neutral by 2030. This means thinking differently about technology. Not only will their next supercomputer run on 100% renewable energy, they use cloud-native approaches to run energy-efficient workloads. For example, working with AWS, the Met Office built a prototype solution that pushes data-intensive workloads closer to where the data resides, providing elastic, scalable, on-demand compute with super-fast input/output (I/O) to the data storage fabric. The results showed that by rethinking the way they approached data access, the workloads took 65% less time to complete. Using AWS’s Customer Carbon Footprint tools, they were able to quantify the savings in energy and carbon equivalent emissions (CO2e). The Met Office is now working with AWS to determine how to scale this up beyond the prototype.

Learn more about sustainability with AWS

Public sector organisations and businesses are working together to leverage the power of technology and data to create a better future for people and the planet and support their environmental and social sustainability goals.

Learn more about how the cloud can support sustainable infrastructure and more, and Amazon’s commitment to sustainability and water stewardship.

Find out more how AWS can help drive sustainable transformation.

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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

Mateo Dugand

Mateo Dugand

Mateo Dugand is part of the Global Sustainability team at Amazon Web Services (AWS), leading external strategic sustainability initiatives globally by engaging with customers, partners, analysts, media, and policy makers that are integral to advancing success in the sustainability arena. Previously, he worked for Hewlett Packard Enterprise as a senior technologist in sustainable transformation, developing and implementing sustainable IT practices through IT efficiency, decarbonization, and circular economy initiatives. Mateo has also worked on circular and decarbonization projects in Congo and the USA, and more recently on energy-from-waste in the UAE. Mateo is an environmental engineer and holds a Master’s degree in Energy Management and Sustainability Engineering from EPFL in Switzerland.