Newsbridge – Best practices for evaluating the carbon emissions of cloud-based media workflows

Newsbridge – Best practices for evaluating the carbon emissions of cloud-based media workflows

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Newsbridge – Best practices for evaluating the carbon emissions of cloud-based media workflows

Tue 19, 12 2023

Newsbridge – Best practices for evaluating the carbon emissions of cloud-based media workflows

Philippe Petitpont, Co-founder and CEO at Newsbridge


In the era of increasing environmental consciousness, media companies are under growing pressure to address their impact on the world. Going digital may seem like a step in the right direction, but the digital sector relies on equipment and infrastructure that is networked across the entire planet. The environmental impact of this infrastructure is proving to be increasingly worrisome. According to estimates, the digital sector represents 2% to 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and energy consumption is growing by 9% each year. Behind these figures, it’s important to emphasize that video represents 82% of internet traffic, and the volume of data stored in data centers is experiencing hyper-growth of 40% per year.


This article will explore the challenges of measuring carbon emissions output, sharing strategies for media companies to ensure sustainable cloud-based media workflows.

Why measuring emissions is challenging

Numerous other industries have benefited from established standards or best practices for evaluating their greenhouse gas emissions over the years. Yet, the IT sector has been slow to adopt suitable benchmarks and methodologies, largely due to its inherent complexity. The extensive and intricate supply chains associated with ICT hardware, the prevalent use of shared resources demanding specific allocation techniques, and the multifaceted features of ICT services – which can vary widely even within a single company’s customer base – contribute to this challenge.

While there are existing references and methodologies for assessing the emissions of digital equipment and services, the data sources available for analyzing the life cycle of equipment remain quite limited. The challenges are further compounded when dealing with the “dematerialized” services of cloud-based activities, which are notably opaque and difficult to evaluate. Guidance underscores three key areas for measuring emissions in cloud services: data center emissions, network emissions, and emissions from end-user devices. This complexity makes obtaining a clear overall picture a formidable task.

Guidance highlights three key areas for measuring emissions in cloud services

 These challenges are intensified by the fact that carbon emissions measurements are no longer just optional; they are now a requirement to enhance sales and investment potential. The question becomes: how can media companies measure emissions along the supply chain?

Comparing the different types of carbon emissions

Measuring carbon emissions is a multi-phase process. There are three “scopes” of carbon emissions, according to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol: direct emissions by a company’s activities (Scope 1), indirect emissions generated by a company’s energy acquisition (Scope 2), and indirect emissions produced by the company’s supply chain (Scope 3).

The      three “scopes” of carbon emissions, according to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol

While Scope 3 emissions are the most challenging to track and not mandatory to report, reducing them is the only way to create real, lasting change. Scope 3 emissions take into account things like: purchased goods and services, business travel, employee commuting, waste disposal, use of sold products and services, transportation and distribution, investments, and leased assets and franchises.

 Strategies for assessing the emissions of cloud-based services

A growing volume of media content is migrating to and being accessed in the cloud. Unfortunately, the use of the cloud often conceals a significant portion of emissions from direct view. Currently there are two methods available to manually calculate the emissions of such services:

  • A bottom-up approach that requires identifying specific equipment associated with the service, and the measurement of this equipment’s energy use. This can be used when total emissions of a data center are unknown.
  • A top-down approach that allocates the total data center emissions using an appropriate method; for ICT services, this involves prorating the usage of the shared component.

To estimate emissions from using cloud services, it is imperative to gain a thorough knowledge of their operation. User services, often involving computing or storage, execute operations on a virtual machine (VM). These VMs operate on computer servers, IT devices that host multiple VMs, within a data center.

Collecting data from the cloud provider is also vital. The services and usage of VMs constitute known data, as these are the components every customer procures from their cloud provider. Usage data, available on billing consoles, provides essential information for reporting.

Furthermore, identifying the characteristics of the hardware supporting VMs, particularly energy consumption based on load, is essential. This information can help media companies accurately calculate emissions. After identifying hardware characteristics, complexities can arise when determining the load rate affecting energy consumption. Allocating the load to specific VMs rather than others and understanding the replication rate for storage are additional challenges.

Once machine energy consumption is estimated, factoring in the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) is necessary. PUE, provided by cloud providers, is a ratio depicting the efficiency of a data center in utilizing energy – specifically how much is used by computing equipment. Upon knowing total energy consumption, converting it into GHG emissions using the location-based method is the next step. Applying a conversion factor corresponding to the local energy mix for each data center, based on geographical location (data provided by electricity network operators), provides insights into operational emissions.

Beyond energy consumption, accounting for emissions linked to the manufacture of equipment is crucial. This entails obtaining life cycle analysis data for the equipment, a task frequently marred by challenges. It is important to note that this process is not a perfect science, and any assessment that media companies obtain is merely a rough estimate of emissions. Future access to missing data will improve the accuracy of assessments.

Leading change for a better future

Estimating emissions related to cloud services is a multifaceted approach that encompasses understanding the system, collecting data, identifying hardware characteristics, estimating energy consumption, and accounting for both operational and embodied emissions. While there are challenges to measuring cloud-based workflow emissions, the media industry’s ongoing efforts will drive more accurate assessments in the future.

Partnering with technology providers that are focused on sustainability is key to a green future. As a leading AI company, Newsbridge is committed to reducing the media industry’s impact on carbon emissions.  Click here to find out more about Newsbridge’s sustainability journey and how the company is measuring its own carbon footprint.

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