Summary: In this article, we bring out the critical role of data erasure for businesses aiming to achieve sustainability to create a positive impact on the environment by shrinking the carbon footprint caused due to improper device disposal and destruction. Discover how data wiping aids in reducing e-waste, promoting the reuse of devices for a circular economy, and optimizing resources.
We generate incomprehensible amounts of data daily, and this trend will continue to rise due to the widespread adoption of AI, increase in internet usage, technological advancement, growth of IoT, cloud computing, the rise of social media platforms, etc. Storing this colossal amount of data necessitates thousands of data centers and millions of data storage devices. This growth in data comes at a significant environmental cost. These energy-hungry data centers guzzle massive amounts of electricity to support their computing power, infrastructural energy needs, and data center cooling requirements. The demand for storage and processing power has skyrocketed. According to International Energy Agency (IEA), “Data centers and data transmission networks are responsible for nearly 1% of energy-related GHG (Green House Gases) emissions.” The energy consumed by data centers and the carbon emissions produced due to improper disposal of electronic devices surely contribute to climate change. The data stored in data centers consist of Critical, ROT (Redundant Obsolete Trivial), and Dark Data. You would be surprised to know that, Splunk estimates, “55 percent of organizations’ data is dark.” It means more than half of all the stored data serves no benefit to the organization, however, it is responsible for consuming more than half of the 205TWh (terawatt hours) energy consumed by data centers worldwide. This not only adds to costs incurred by the organizations but also puts enormous pressure on the environment without serving any purpose.
Celebrated author and environmentalist Robert Swan once said, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” To save our planet and to reduce carbon footprints, organizations are required to follow the practice of data erasure as a means to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainability.
So, How Can Organizations Leverage Data Erasure and Lower Carbon Emissions?
Data Erasure has the potential to become a sustainable IT strategy for reducing energy consumption in data centers, edge servers, and organizational storages happening due to improper disposal of pre-mature and perfectly usable IT storage devices. Organizations with massive unused, hidden, and dark data often resort to permanent device destruction due to the traditional belief that it is a safe method for destroying data. However, not only does permanent device destruction push organizations on a risky path of incurring data breach episodes but it wreaks havoc on the environment and the valuable resources used for manufacturing.
With data erasure, organizations can optimize the way resources are used and contribute to a more sustainable digital environment by extending the life of devices and drives. Let’s delve further and understand how data erasure works, and its benefits in achieving carbon neutrality for your organization and meeting the Corporate Social Responsibility Goals.
Understanding Data Erasure and its Benefits?
Simply put, Data Erasure is the logical method for permanent data destruction. It involves wiping data from drives and devices in an environmentally friendly manner leaving the device intact and primed for future reuse. It aids organizations in meeting ‘Regulatory Compliance’ and helps them safeguard their data from threats of data breaches, leakage, and cyberattacks. It assists them in reducing e-waste by encouraging device reuse and playing an important role in a circular economy.
The first step towards wiping data begins with the thorough examination of your organizational unstructured data stored in your premise, on edge servers, and cloud. This exercise is crucial for determining what data is to be retained and what is to be disposed of. You also need to access if the storage media is in good condition with readable sectors or has bad sectors. The method to erase data depends on the storage device condition too.
Once you have determined that, let’s see how Data Erasure will help you achieve sustainability and reduce your carbon footprint:
- E-Waste Reduction: Organizations tend to dispose of their IT hardware once it reaches end-of-life or the company upgrades its equipment. Since these assets contain sensitive data they are physically destroyed and end up in landfills emitting harmful chemicals and polluting the environment. Data Erasure ensures that no sensitive data remains on these devices and they can be resold, repurposed, refurbished, recycled, or donated for continued usage. It helps reduce the generation of e-waste and conserves valuable resources.
- Resource Optimization & Reduced Emissions: Manufacturing new IT hardware exerts significant strain on the ecology as mining and extraction of minerals require enormous amounts of energy and displace the flora and fauna of the area causing ecological damage. Over and above this a lot of energy is also used for packaging and transporting these devices.
By eliminating the need for premature disposal, Data Erasure ensures that IT assets are utilized to their full capacity. Once the devices become obsolete they can be responsibly recycled and the recycled minerals can be reutilized for manufacturing new hardware. This significantly reduces the emission of GHG and reduces the carbon footprint of organizations.
- Efficient Data Management: Organizations tend to store a lot of cold data (Data rarely accessed). According to Sustainability Magazine, “At least 60% of data is cold and has not been touched in months to years.” This means that your ‘Data Retention’ policies are not effective for Sustainable Data Management. You are wasting money and energy storing data that you don’t access, utilize or derive any value from. Data Retention policies are made in compliance with laws and the need to hold data that is critical and confidential. However, mostly it is seen that unstructured data is lying in company servers, backups, and cloud storage for years. Data Erasure, helps you weed out unwanted cold data, reduce your storage costs and bring down your energy consumption. Your Data Retention & Data Disposal policies must ensure efficient data collection, processing, and storage. You should regularly erase unnecessary or obsolete data and retain only what is vital for your business.
- Promoting Circular Economy: Data-bearing devices are destroyed primarily for safeguarding sensitive data and for compliance with ‘Data Protection’ regulations. This has become a counterproductive exercise as Data Erasure in itself is sufficient for permanent data wiping.
Once data-bearing devices have been wiped they can be reused as required. It helps contribute to a circular economy that is based on the principles of sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling.
- Enhance Reputation and Stakeholder Expectations: In recent years there has been a tectonic shift in how business leaders think, as per Gartner, “Environmental sustainability is now among the top 10 strategic business priorities for CEOs.” This is primarily driven by factors like regulations, government policies, management decisions, client pressure, civil society activism, shareholders’ expectation, investors, competitors’ transition to sustainable practices, employees’ feedback, and due to bankers’ & lenders’ push for greener alternatives.
Wiping your IT devices and reusing them can help you enhance your organization’s reputation and meet the expectations of environmentally conscious stakeholders.
These are a few ways how Data Erasure can help your organization drastically reduce the carbon footprint minimizing the harm caused to the environment.
Key Takeaways: Embrace Data Erasure for Environmental Sustainability
In the era of exponential data growth, organizations face the daunting task of balancing growth and sustainability. The alarming stats around data storage, utilization of data, and high energy consumption highlight the need for sustainable and green technology to manage the environmental challenges that arise because of them. By applying Data Erasure, organizations can reduce their e-waste generation, promote resource optimization, play a pivotal role in a circular economy, and reduce overall CO2 emissions. Moreover, Data Erasure aligns with the widely talked about concept of ‘Environmental Sustainability’ amongst stakeholders, including regulators, clients, investors, and employees.
What is Sustainable Data Management?
Sustainable Data Management refers to the practices employed to handle data efficiently and responsibly in a way that would minimize its negative impact on the environment and maximize long-term sustainability. It involves the adoption of strategies and systems that prioritize using energy efficiently, reducing carbon footprint, minimizing e-waste generation, and promoting ethical & responsible data usage.
How does Data Erasure help in reducing e-waste and conserving resources?
By eliminating the need for premature disposal, Data Erasure ensures that IT assets are utilized to their full capacity. Data Erasure ensures that no sensitive data remains on these devices and they can be resold, repurposed, refurbished, recycled, or donated for continued usage. It helps reduce the generation of e-waste and conserves valuable resources.
How does data erasure promote a circular economy?
With data erasure, organizations can optimize the way resources are used and contribute to a more sustainable digital environment. Once data-bearing devices have been wiped they can be reused as required. It helps contribute to a circular economy that is based on the principles of sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling.