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Dropbox targets carbon neutrality and 100% renewable electricity within a decade

File hosting firm Dropbox has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality for direct, power-related and business-travel-related emissions by 2030, as part of a sweeping new sustainability strategy.

The targets form Dropbox's first climate strategy since it was founded in 2007

The targets form Dropbox’s first climate strategy since it was founded in 2007

Given that Dropbox relies on data centres and offices to run its business, and given that its 2,300+ strong staff base are dispersed globally across 12 offices and travel frequently, the new strategy is centred around these most material impacts.

To reduce direct (Scope 1) and power-related (Scope 2) emissions, Dropbox will invest in technologies and systems which minimize the energy consumption of its operations – particularly its data centres in the US and its servers in Germany, Australia and Japan. The business hopes to decouple energy consumption from storage capacity.

It will also transition to 100% renewable electricity for its data centres and offices, by changing its electricity tariffs and exploring power purchase agreements (PPAs) with renewable generators.

Data centres accounted for more than 1% of the world’s electricity consumption in 2018 and this proportion is expected to rise exponentially in the coming decades as digitization continues.

On business travel, Dropbox will encourage employees to stay at their home or office and use tech-based communication to avoid face-to-face meetings wherever possible. Emissions from the remaining business journeys will be offset.

Elsewhere, Dropbox has announced new measures to support external organisations championing climate action and to help employees volunteer for environmental causes.

On the former, Dropbox is already providing free cloud service licences to more than 7,000 non-profits and donating more than $1m every year to charities, and hopes to extend this work. On the latter, each Dropbox employee is offered 32 hours of volunteer-time-off per year, to be taken within their usual working hours. The company will partner with environmental charities to help employees spend this time on their initiatives.

“As an organization, we feel a tremendous responsibility to create a more sustainable future; it’s without question that the harmful effects of climate change impact everyone and we feel an urgent need to take action,” Dropbox’s chief legal officer Bart Volkmer said.

“We know that we are one small part of a larger solution and hope this inspires others to take steps in the right direction.”

Dropbox competitor WeTransfer is notably aiming to be a carbon-neutral company by the end of 2020.

Readers keen to explore the environmental impact of data centres and related services, like file sharing and streaming, are encouraged to listen to the 87th episode of edie’s Sustainable Business Covered Podcast. The episode features interviews with former npower chief executive Paul Massara, UCL professor Yiannis Andreopoulos and vinyl CD manufacturer and retailer Key Production. Listen for free by clicking here, or following edie on Soundcloud, Spotify or iTunes.

Sarah George

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