HPE advances ambitious sustainability goals

From an accelerated net-zero goal to an enhanced portfolio of sustainable IT offerings, HPE shares updates from the company's latest Living Progress report.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has become more ambitious in its focus on sustainability.

John Frey, CTO in sustainable transformation at HPE, highlighted the company's latest progress on sustainability initiatives in a briefing for analysts held on Aug. 14. He pointed to relevant data from the HPE's 2022 edition of its "Living Progress Report," which the company has published annually since 1996.

Announcements of importance to IT leaders included an accelerated net-zero 2040 goal, an enhanced portfolio of sustainable IT offerings and a discussion around making AI sustainable.

Net zero by 2040

HPE has set a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. This objective is a significant step up from the company's previous goal of net zero by 2050 and a full decade before competitors Dell Technologies and Lenovo Group Limited's commitment of net zero by 2050. Cisco, like HPE, is committed to the 2040 time frame but differs from HPE's commitment in that it allows for carbon removal as an offset, should it fall short of its goal.

HPE uses the Science Based Targets initiative's (SBTi) approved definitions for greenhouse gas emissions, which cover Scope 1 (direct), Scope 2 (indirect) and Scope 3 (external and indirect) emissions.

The SBTi recently removed AWS parent company Amazon from its list of companies acting on climate goals. Amazon failed to implement its commitment to set a credible target for reducing carbon emissions.

By way of contrast, Google committed to running on 100% carbon-free energy by 2030, and Microsoft -- with perhaps the boldest published goal -- seeks to be "carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 remove from the atmosphere an equivalent amount of all the carbon dioxide our company has emitted either directly or by our electricity consumption since we were founded in 1975."

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Portfolio of sustainable IT offerings

According to research from TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group, 93% of buyers said they expect the importance of supplier environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance to increase as a purchase factor.

HPE is already experiencing this increase.

Frey noted HPE has received over 3,000 inquiries on ESG, sustainability and compliance in the most recent sales period.

"The inquiries are getting much more specific," Frey said. "Product [level] carbon footprint and ethical AI questions are coming in now."

Organizations are doing their homework when it comes to sustainability.

As for specific services to help HPE customers achieve their sustainability goals, Frey highlighted Right Mix Advisor, a tool that enables customers to choose the right mix of cloud and on-premises IT resources to meet their needs while minimizing environmental effects. Originally positioned as a utility for cloud migration planning, Right Mix Advisor now plays a role in sustainability planning.

Frey also discussed HPE's work in the area of data efficiency by processing less but richer data, as well as its work in software efficiency by designing software to consume less compute per usable output. HPE's improvement to those areas could drive significant reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for customers.

The combination of Right Mix Advisor with the rapid adoption of observability and AIOps tools -- such as HPE's recently acquired OpsRamp IT operations management software -- can give customers the tools they need to achieve sustainability in and outside of the data center.

I expect that these data and software efficiency concepts will grow in importance. The measurement of executing workloads will become prevalent and compliance commitment deadlines will follow.

FinOps -- measuring and allocating costs for cloud-hosted workloads -- might eventually be applied to all workloads for environmental impact measurement and carbon accounting.

Colocation partnerships

HPE has partnered with several data center operators, including Equinix, Digital Realty and others, to make HPE GreenLake available as an off-premises private cloud that uses renewable energy. These partnerships enable customers to host their IT workloads in data centers powered by clean energy.

Dell offers similar functionality through its colocation services with Dell Apex.

Colocation in environmentally friendly data centers is emerging as a major avenue for organizations to meet sustainability objectives.

The report also discussed how customers are taking advantage of various services to manage e-waste. These tasks might include recycling and refurbishing equipment, which helps to reduce waste and emissions.

HPE claims to have recycled over 3 million PCs, 2 million servers and 800,000 storage devices, resulting in over $1 billion in returned savings to program participants.

What about AI?

There is growing concern that AI's reliance on high-performance computing and GPUs -- notoriously heavy energy consumers -- will negatively affect carbon emissions. Serious issues like this will affect an organization's ability to meet sustainability targets.

Frey covered GreenLake for Large Language Models, a relatively new cloud-based service that provides customers with access to powerful AI models without the need to invest in expensive hardware. This service helps customers reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions associated with AI by utilizing a cloud service hosted in Canada that only uses renewable energy sources. This offering could be an early step in making AI sustainable.

I expect more announcements around sustainable AI from HPE and competitors as they jockey for a strong position in an important market going forward.

While competitors are certainly not standing still, HPE is offering tactical and strategic opportunities to address customers' ESG needs as we journey toward a more sustainable future to make IT a net positive for the environment.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget. Its analysts have business relationships with technology vendors.

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