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Google Carbon Footprint: Measuring, Managing, and Mitigating Cloud-Based Emissions

In an era where environmental sustainability is of paramount importance, businesses are increasingly seeking ways to minimize their carbon footprint. Google, a tech giant at the forefront of sustainability efforts, offers a powerful tool known as Google Carbon Footprint. In this article, we will delve into what this tool is, how it can be utilized, and the benefits it brings to organizations striving for greener, more eco-conscious operations.

What is  Google Carbon Footprint tool and what is it used for?

With Google’s Carbon Assessment tool, companies can measure, assess, and reduce the carbon footprint of their Google Cloud usage. The tool allows companies to: 

  • View the gross, location-based emissions from their Google Cloud usage. 
  • Monitor usage over time by project, product, and region.
  • Help CIOs identify where they can further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental impact of operations.

Google Carbon Footprint, featured on TechRadar by Devoteam, can be used for ongoing environmental monitoring and strategic planning.

What are the ideal use cases for Google Carbon Footprint?

Google Carbon Footprint is ideal for any Google Cloud user who wants to accurately measure the carbon emissions associated with their use of cloud-based resources. Initially, these would have been enterprise-class customers. But as ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) targets become common across the industry, any business using Google Cloud can take advantage of the tool.

This makes the Google Carbon Footprint tool suitable for businesses that:

  • Are contractually obliged to report ESG sustainability metrics
  • Need to publish carbon emissions data
  • Want to better understand the environmental impact of operations

Because the tool focuses on cloud usage rather than industry verticals, it is a solid choice for any business of any size.

Who uses Google Carbon Footprint?

Google does not publish official figures on market penetration and usage so it is hard to say exactly how widespread Carbon Footprint usage is. According to the case studies published on the Google Cloud subsite, high-profile users of Google Carbon Footprint include 

  • SADA Systems
  • Etsy
  • SunPower

Because Google Carbon Footprint is available free to all Google Cloud users, it is highly likely that there are many other businesses currently using the tool.

What are the top benefits of Google Carbon Footprint?

Google Carbon Footprint is a powerful and simple-to-use sustainability measurement tool for businesses that want to monitor and reduce the emissions impact of their cloud computing usage. The platform offers three key benefits:

  • Accurately measure the gross carbon footprint

Google famously claims that any system running on its cloud platform has zero net operational emissions. However, the Carbon Footprint tool allows you to accurately calculate the gross emissions impact of your cloud operations. This data also breaks down into geographical regions to enable assessment of operations across the world.

  • Track the emissions profile of every cloud project

With Carbon Footprint you can monitor your gross cloud emissions over time by project, product, and region. This gives IT teams and developers metrics that can help them plan future enhancements that will improve their carbon footprint.

  • Share detailed methodology with sustainability officers

Google openly publishes the carbon emissions calculation methodology used by the Carbon Footprint tool. This enables reviewers and reporting teams to verify that their emissions data meets the globally accepted GHG Protocol. It is also worth noting that Google’s methodology has been checked for ‘reasonableness’ by independent third-party experts.

How much does Google Carbon Footprint cost?

Google Carbon Footprint is available free of charge to Google Cloud subscribers. Google does warn that businesses will incur additional fees if they export their sustainability metrics data to other tools and platforms like BigQuery. As always, these additional fees will be calculated based on cloud resource usage.

Is there anything else I need to know about Google Carbon Footprint?

For most businesses, Google Carbon Footprint will only form part of their ESG strategy because it is limited to reporting on Google Cloud usage. Organisations that want to understand greenhouse gas emissions generated by their on-premise operations or hosted in other clouds will need an additional/alternative tool to capture that information.

Because it is free for Google Cloud users, Google Carbon Footprint is an ideal tool for getting started with carbon footprint calculations. There is no associated financial penalty for migrating to another platform as your ESG reporting requirements change.

Are there any other products I should consider?

As the TechRadar by Devoteam report notes, there is only one other sustainability metrics calculation tool currently recommended for immediate adoption – SalesForce Net Zero Cloud. However, there are other applications your business could trial for suitability including 

  • Kubecost

you can learn about these and other emerging sustainability tools in the TechRadar by Devoteam.

Beyond carbon footprint, how to reach operations in IT decarbonization management?