An End-to-End Approach to Sustainability in the AI Era

An End-to-End Approach to Sustainability in the AI Era

Authored by Jeff Clarke, Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, Dell Technologies

With our scalable Dell AI factory and open ecosystem partnerships, we’re helping our customers unlock new possibilities with AI. With these possibilities, also come challenges, like the world’s transition to Net-zero and what impact generative AI will have on climate transition work already underway.

What we know is the world relies on supercomputing to solve many of its greatest challenges like advancing healthcare, transforming the food system and conserving nature. Yet certain AI workloads can be energy intensive. In fact, it is estimated that by 2030, energy demands for AI data centers will equate to around 390 gigawatts (GW), with an additional capacity of 130GW for other applications. That’s 520GW in total – eight times today’s capacity. 

So how do we approach this as a global technology leader? How can we help create a future where progress does not come at the expense of our planet? 

For decades, we have seen sustainability as a business imperative, so we treat it like one. It’s woven throughout our business operations, influences how we design products and innovate more energy-efficient data center solutions, and shapes how we help our customers meet their business and societal impact goals. We take an end-to-end approach to sustainability.

Back End and Front End Expertise

Think of the back end as how we integrate and operationalize sustainability as an organization internally and within our ecosystem. Everyone across the organization plays a role, from our accounting teams to our engineers, global operations and sales leaders. It’s this foundation that enables us to drive sustainable materials innovation with our suppliers and product design teams. It’s how we are exploring the intersection of technology and energy innovation. And how we drive cross-organizational collaboration to meet upcoming regulations and reporting requirements.

The front end is what most people see. It’s the conversations we have with our customers and partners about their sustainability needs - how we’re helping them to right-size their workloads and advising on renewable energy sources. The front end is our sustainable data center solutions like storage and servers built with leading liquid and air cooling, emissions tracking, and energy efficiency top of mind. It shows up in the low emissions aluminum and recycled cobalt in our AI PCs and our multipack shipping options to reduce emissions and waste. It’s present in our recycling and recovery services for the responsible retirement or reuse of systems and the reduction of e-waste. We consider sustainability in every offering - including our as-a-Service solutions for more flexible IT management. These solutions could help reduce the overall emissions of IT operations.

Why is an End-to-end Approach to Sustainability Important?

Rising energy costs, changing regulations and reporting requirements, and diverse stakeholder demands are forcing organizations to adopt more sustainable IT practices. However, almost 6 in 10 customers tell us they think AI will compromise their environmental sustainability efforts and many customers tell us that they are not sure where to focus. We are on a similar journey and this approach, including an annual end-to-end sustainability roadmap, has helped us focus and make progress. 

There is more work to do, including how to sustainably manage power hungry GenAI. What we know is managing our sustainability innovation and operations end-to-end is an important foundation to build on as we seize the AI opportunity ahead.

It is a pivotal moment. We’re optimistic, pragmatic and will continue to use the industry’s broadest technology and services portfolio, combined with our team member and partner ingenuity, and global reach to deliver positive business, environmental and societal impact. 

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