Sustainability considerations in cloud adoption planning

Planning for sustainability in your cloud journey and business is crucial for several reasons. First, it can help your organization reduce its environmental impact by optimizing resource usage, reducing energy consumption, and lowering carbon emissions. Doing so can demonstrate your commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), comply with regulations and industry standards, and improve your brand reputation.

Identify current emissions

Identify current emissions to plan a sustainable cloud adoption journey. Measure over time when moving workloads to/from cloud providers to reduce carbon footprint and achieve compliance with industry standards.

Identify the most carbon-emitting workloads

One key criterion for prioritization of migration workload can be current carbon emissions. From a cloud efficiency and sustainability perspective, the highest emitters should be prioritized to migrate first to the cloud, maximizing the ROI early in the migration journey. Consider using a tool like the Emissions Savings Estimator which will help you understand the emissions from your current on-premises workloads.

Roles and responsibilities

To successfully integrate sustainability into your cloud journey, it's essential to nominate a lead responsible for your sustainability efforts, define clear RACI (Responsibility, Accountability, Consulted, and Informed) for sustainability targets, and build green teams with specific sustainability metrics. This approach helps businesses to have a sustainability focal point, ensures accountability for meeting targets, and encourages cross-functional collaboration.

Nominate a sustainability lead

Have you defined the person leading the charge for sustainability in your organization?

The role of the Chief Sustainability Officer is evolving. It will likely be pivotal in the future as organizations navigate the complexity of delivering on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) commitments.

It can be the Chief Sustainability Officer if that role exists in your organization. However, it can be anyone ultimately responsible and accountable for sustainability in the cloud. See making sustainability part of everybody's job.

Consider nominating a lead for your sustainability efforts and teams, helping your business have a sustainability focal point. Organizations often have small silos of interested parties, and sustainability is such a task that requires everyone to be participating and work together. Some organizations are beginning their ESG journey, and there might not be a dedicated budget for a Chief Sustainability Officer role. Instead, building a virtual community across the business and dedicating someone to take the lead is a significant first step to consider.

Define a clear RACI

Consider evolving the traditional organization structure by introducing sustainability practices within the company. For example, the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) can encompass the directions for setting up the sustainability practice.

The governance team can define the accountabilities around ensuring the sustainability targets are being tracked and progressed.


To drive sustainability awareness, it's essential to upskill employees on green skills and encourage them to participate in related discussions. The sustainability teams can focus on skilling ambitions and should engage the entire organization in relevant initiatives.

Build a sustainability community

Teams need to be aware of new advancements in sustainability constantly. Building a community around cloud efficiency and green software is a good starting point to foster awareness and drive a sustainability culture across your organization. See how do I start a sustainability community in my organization?.

The sustainability community members might be separate from the central organization's sustainability team. However, strategic messaging should flow to the community. Additionally, feedback, initiatives, and suggestions should be fed from the community back into the teams accountable for sustainability. See sustainability community and knowledge sharing in the Azure Well-Architected Framework.

Learning resources

Sustainability, or cloud efficiency, is a fundamental topic to understand optimizing your cloud infrastructure, applications, and workloads. Knowing how early in your cloud journey you can contribute to becoming more sustainable is also an essential part of your planning process.

Define reporting standards

Create reporting standards to provide consistency and clarity in emissions reporting, which helps in decision-making for sustainability. For instance, use metrics such as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to compare on-premises data centers to cloud services. Also, consider indirect emissions in the supply chain lifecycle.

Reporting standards like the Greenhouse Gas Protocol can help align reporting across organizations. Defining such standards can alleviate resistance to implementing green IT and sustainability practices, particularly in cases where legacy systems need updates.

Planning for reporting standards also helps with sustainability considerations in your cloud management processes.

Risk management

Manage climate risk effectively by aligning a company's sustainability progress and commitments with the interest of its stakeholder. Considerations include the environmental impact of the company's cloud operations. Understanding this and taking proactive steps to mitigate climate risk can lead to not only protecting themselves from potential adverse impacts but also positioning themselves as leaders in cloud efficiency and sustainability, as well as responsible business practices.