Outstanding Contribution to Sustainability and Efficiency Award
Bees are critically endangered. They contribute to 70% of our crops, but sadly, 33% of Irish bees are facing extinction, including almost 90% of our bumblebees in Ireland by 2050 at the current rate of decline. Bees are an indicator for biodiversity in general and once a species is extinct it cannot be reversed. The balance of nature is affected forever.
Host In Ireland and its data centre industry partners have united to make a difference with the DCs for Bees initiative (https://www.hostinireland.com/dc-s-for-bees). We have pledged to raise awareness, advocate, and most importantly, take - and inspire others to take - action to make Ireland more pollinator friendly and ensure the survival of our pollinators for future generations. One of the things that makes Host in Ireland unique is our founding belief in success through collaboration. When we are all focused on the same goals as a community with a purpose, we can have a much bigger impact. We know as a collective we are able to make a greater difference in fighting one of the greatest threats not only to bees, but to the entire planet.
There are four key pillars of the DCs for Bees programme:
1. DCs for Bees Ambassadors exist to advocate, create awareness and take action through their organisations, colleagues, communities and family & friends. Ambassadors have a genuine interest in biodiversity, the environment and bees and are enthused to make a real difference.
2. The DCs for Bees Pollinator Plan is a blueprint to help our partners and the Irish data centre ecosystem take long term action on the decline of bees. Launched in April 2021, it outlines the greatest impact actions that can be taken by companies with 42 pollinator-friendly actions to ensure the survival of our pollinators for future generations.
3. Host In Ireland creates opportunities for our partners - both individuals within the organisation and the organisations themselves - to create a lasting and impactful difference to Ireland's biodiversity. Through our Difference Days we provide the opportunity to not only make an individual difference, but the tools to educate, advocate, create awareness and take action.
4. As communities recover from the effects of the Covid pandemic, creating a sense of collective purpose will be a critical part of this recovery. With Orchards in the Community, we are seeking out “homes” for over 1,000 orchards throughout Ireland as we look to collaborate with local communities, and collectively assist in the reverse of the decline of Ireland’s Pollinators. Working in collaboration with the Irish National Biodiversity Centre this project will also enable Ireland for the first time to track concurrent pollination success by planting uniform orchards in multiple locations within the one growing season.
DCs for Bees was driven by the desire of individuals within the data centre industry to make a difference in Ireland’s biodiversity. Host in Ireland’s partners represent the entire Irish data centre ecosystem chain and all 40 of our partners have participated in the initiative. In addition, 20% of the pledges made to the initiative have come from outside organisations that represent the wider ICT sector in Ireland.
As Data Centre Magazine states: “There’s plenty of discussion about what the data centre of the future will look like. Usually, these discussions revolve around liquid cooling, intelligent power management, and even quantum high performance computing hardware. But given the size of footprint that data centres occupy across the world, discussions should also be taking place about how these external spaces can not just minimise their impact on the environment, but actively benefit local biodiversity.”
With each step, we have seen a tremendous response from our partners and the broader community. In 2021 alone, we’ve had nearly 50 pieces of media coverage showcasing the groundbreaking elements of the programme as well as the significance to the data centre industry and Ireland’s biodiversity. Webinar launches for the Pollinator Plan and the Orchards in the Community programme elements garnered more than 1100 registrants. Social media engagement includes 4077 video views on LinkedIn with nearly 40,000 impressions across the platform.
The first Difference Day took place in October 2019. Over 100 volunteers from Host in Ireland’s partners and associates came together to plant more than 2000 indigenous Irish trees in County Wicklow to create safe habitat and food for bees - all in a single day. This particular project was to help halt the worrying decline of a species of butterfly, called the wall butterfly, which is endangered in Ireland. For this reason, Host in Ireland teamed up with the Native Woodland Trust and the Irish National Biodiversity Centre to minimise unintended consequences of any actions we took. This collaboration will ensure the actions we take are the right ones and are as impactful as possible.
In the midst of the 2020 covid lockdowns, DCs for Bees Ambassadors began their work. Thirty-five ambassadors from across the data centre industry and beyond are creating a movement dedicated to impactful actions in halting the decline of bees in Ireland. Collaborating in monthly meetings, ambassadors discuss ideas, actions taken and results achieved so that as a community we can become more effective advocates. Overall our ambassadors have access to influence over 5.5 million employees worldwide within their organisations, not counting their communities and outside networks.
The DCs for Bees Pollinator Plan launched in April 2021 with Host in Ireland partners committing to implement the plan within their organisations. Speaking at the Pollinator Plan launch event, Dr Úna FitzPatrick from the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, noted: “Host in Ireland were the first industry-wide organisation to approach us about how they could help address bee declines in Ireland. We have worked in partnership to ensure they were creating the right plan of action at the right time for the right results. We are delighted that Host in Ireland and its data centre industry partners have stepped forward and are uniting to make a difference with the DCs for Bees Pollinator Plan.”
The plan is focused on actions that any business in the data centre ecosystem can take, from the smallest supplier to the largest data landowners. It aims to create awareness and drive real action that can help to reduce, stall or even reverse the extinction of our bees. To date, the plan has been viewed nearly 1500 times and 23 companies have committed to more than 65 of the plan’s actions.
In June 2021, 50 organisations pledged more than 1,300 orchards to be planted across Ireland in the 2021-2022 planting season. Orchards are classified as ‘Priority Habitats’ as the natural life cycle of fruit trees provides food sources for pollinators and other species throughout the year. Each participant organisation determines the location of their pledged orchard. Exemplifying the community nature of this project, global law firm, Eversheds Sutherlands, donated 40 orchards for the grounds of the children’s charity, Barretstown, for children and their families living with a serious illness to enjoy as part of their camp activities.
Our partners have embraced the initiative with their own action plans within their organisations. CyrusOne has taken the opportunity to expand on both the initiative and how it fits into their broader sustainability plans. “The specific plan of action in the DCs for Bees Pollinator Plan makes it easy to roll out across our company and gives our employees a tangible way to give back to our community,” said Matt Pullen, EVP and Managing Director – Europe at CyrusOne. “As with our broader involvement in Host in Ireland, being a part of a collective provides an opportunity to have a bigger, longer lasting impact. For something as important as Ireland’s biodiversity, we are very proud to be a part of this programme.” This video from Cyrus One explains further: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfTvsSQmxls
Keppel Data Centres and Equinix are two more data centre operators that are champions of the programme. Gary Watson, Keppel’s country manager for Ireland, noted, “In recent years, when we upgraded our data centres in Dublin, we also took the opportunity to enhance their landscape to be more pollinator friendly. At Keppel DC Dublin 1, we planted hawthorn shrubs around the perimeter, and sowed more than 800 bluebell bulbs, as these plants are good pollen sources for the bees. Over at Keppel DC Dublin 2, we planted a wildflower meadow to nurture bees and other insects.” Maurice Mortell, managing director for Ireland at Equinix, also added that at Equinix they are “planting orchards, pollinator friendly plants, and bee hotels where possible at existing Dublin sites and incorporating pollinator-friendly design into the plans of our new sites.”
With the launch of the Orchards in the Community programme, Schneider Electric also announced their broader corporate initiative and commitment to donate 200 orchards.
"At Schneider Electric, we are always searching for ways to drive sustainable change. This project encompasses all our values, and we are delighted to be advocates of such a pressing issue in our local communities and worldwide. Schneider Electric's participation in the programme fits perfectly with our wider mission to put sustainability at the heart of progress, as well as providing great spaces like orchards for the community to enjoy and experience nature," said Chris Collins, Country President at Schneider Electric, Ireland.
Host in Ireland has always been focused on showcasing Ireland as a centre of data excellence. We are not a lobbying group or trade association. Our compatriots around the world are trying to achieve the same things we are and data centre sustainability is at the forefront of all our efforts. We hope our example with DCs for Bees inspires and opens the floodgates for other industries to join in and make a bigger difference around the world.