Home CATEGORIES Environment Global CSR Report: Facebook journeying into a zero-carbon economy
Global CSR Report: Facebook journeying into a zero-carbon economy
Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use the tech giant’s apps and technologies to connect with friends and family, to further embrace their communities, and to help them expand their businesses. Most popular platforms and products in the stable include Instagram, Whatsapp, Oculus, Workplace, Novi and Portal.
1. About Facebook
At the end of 2020, the company’s headcount was 58,604. Facebook team members are located at offices in more than 80 cities across North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific including India. This report reflects Facebook’s sustainability progress in fiscal year 2020. The world shifted dramatically during this year as we all adapted to the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s top priority has been to keep Facebook communities safe and healthy, yet they kept a close eye on sustainability initiatives.
2. CSR Vision
The company’s vision is a “just and equitable transition to a zero-carbon economy, where no one is left behind”. They have achieved net zero emissions in global operations and plan to reach net zero emissions for their value chain in 2030. Beyond doing their part to reduce their own environmental footprint, their approach to Corporate Social Responsibility is to accelerate access to authoritative information and encourage positive action on climate through core products and services, while working with others to scale solutions that help create a healthier planet for all. Their CSR work helps them to operate and grow efficiently and responsibly, and empower people to build sustainable communities.
3. Renewable Energy
In 2011, Facebook announced their commitment to source 100% renewable energy for our facilities — and achieved that goal in 2020. Over the years, their procurement efforts have resulted in Facebook becoming one of the largest global buyers of renewable energy. At the end of 2020, their global portfolio totaled over 5.9 GW of wind and solar projects under contract, and they increased operating portfolio of wind and solar to over 2.8 GW spanning 15 U.S. states, Europe, and Asia. For 2021, they have announced additional contracts, including our first solar-plus-storage projects that include 180 MW of storage capacity across three states.
A core part of their renewable energy strategy is supporting new projects and approaches that increase access to renewable energy, as well as add renewable capacity to the grids that support their data centres. To do this, they partner with utilities and developers to build new wind and solar projects to support their operations. In 2019, they announced their first direct investment in a 300 MW solar power plant in Andrews County, Texas. After 14 months of construction, the plant became operational in July 2020 and has been delivering clean energy to the same Texas grid that serves both our Fort Worth Data Centre and Texas offices. Currently, it is also one of the largest solar projects operating in Texas.
In 2020, Facebook expanded the number of states in the U.S. where they have announced new renewable energy projects to include Illinois, Tennessee, and Ohio, growing the grids on which the company is bringing new solar and wind energy. They also work directly with local utilities around the U.S. to establish new green tariffs that enable other companies and customers, not just Facebook, to access renewable energy.
In October of 2020, they announced Singapore’s first renewable virtual power purchase agreement to support local operations — their offices and upcoming data centre — with solar energy from panels to be installed on the rooftops of more than 1,200 public housing residential units and 49 government buildings. Once operational, the rooftops are expected to total more than 100 MW of solar capacity. In Ireland, they also partnered with Brookfield Renewables to purchase energy produced by its 28.8 MW Lisheen III wind farm based in Tipperary. This is their second renewable energy project in Ireland and the capacity will be enough to support the electricity needs of the company’s expanding data centre buildings and new office campus in Dublin.
3.1. Extending Impact to Communities
Beyond operations, the company’s commitment to support renewable energy projects on the same electricity grid as their data centre and facilities has had a profound economic impact on local communities. To understand the impact of Facebook’s renewable energy projects on jobs and the economy, they released a study in May 2021 that looked at the economic impact of 55 solar and wind projects that support our U.S. data centres.
These renewable energy projects total 5,763 MW—some of which are operating today and others that will come online over the next three years—and represent an estimated $7.4 billion in investment. During construction, these renewable energy projects have supported or will support over 42,000 jobs across the country and contribute more than $4.3 billion in U.S. GDP.
Facebook’s portfolio of solar and wind projects spans 18 states and 46 counties, and many of these projects have benefited under-resourced communities. Of the 55 U.S. solar and wind projects in our portfolio studied, 96% are located outside of major metropolitan areas and 82% are located in counties with poverty rates above the national average. The analysis showed that construction of these renewable energy projects have generated or will generate $2.6 billion of labour income for workers, and project operations will generate $70 million in annual employee compensation.
3.2. Sharing Market Expertise
Collaboration is a core aspect of their strategy to source and increase access to renewable energy. As part of efforts to strengthen the global renewable energy market, they work closely with key stakeholders and industry groups — such as Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, RE-Source, the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE), and the American Council on Renewable Energy — to help other companies make their own renewable energy purchases and to accelerate the transition to clean energy across the entire electricity system.
4. Water Restoration
In addition to efforts to maximize efficiency in their own operational water use, a key component of their water stewardship is supporting projects that restore local watersheds near data centre communities. Part of that strategy involves partnering with local, trusted environmental nonprofits that share the vision to identify and support water restoration projects that benefit neighbouring communities, especially those in water-stressed regions.
Restoring local watersheds is not only essential for the global communities that they support; these projects also play a
critical role in preserving local habitats and advancing biodiversity. When identifying restoration projects to support, they prioritize those that help maintain local wildlife habitats and species. To date, they have contracted 10 water projects in four high-risk regions, expecting to save approximately 6 million cubic meters (~1.6 billion gallons) each year. In 2020, the company restored nearly as much water as it consumed to the watersheds where they operate.
4.1. New Mexico
Since 2018, the company has worked closely with The Audubon Society in New Mexico to address shared water challenges in the Rio Grande watershed through an innovative water leasing project. Through this project, the Audubon Society leases water from the City of Bernalillo, City of Belen, and Village of Los Lunas, delivering it to key wetland and channel areas in the Isleta Reach of the Rio Grande that lack adequate water to support riparian, in-channel, and environmental function.
In 2020, they extended project support for another eight years, restoring approximately 123,400 cubic meters per year. This eight-year flow restoration project is the first long-term commitment to lease water for environmental flows in the Rio Grande. To maximize the duration of flows to the Isleta Reach, the water was combined with volumes acquired through other leases, and together the leases helped keep 35 river miles flowing or wetted in 2020. This was crucial to sustain wetland vegetation and fish and wildlife habitat during normally dry periods; a total of 75 bird species were identified at three monitored locations in the project area in July 2020.
California experienced one of the worst wildfire years in the State’s history in 2018, when over 1.8 million acres of its forestland were engulfed in flames. To restore these areas, Arbor Day Foundation and American Forest Foundation are planting two million trees on 8,000 acres, focusing on large swathes of private lands that are often omitted from governmental revitalization efforts. In 2020, they supported the planting of 70,000 trees on 280 acres. This restoration of burned lands is expected to provide water benefits by reducing runoff and erosion, while restoring local habitat and providing economic opportunity through sustainable timber harvesting to local landowners.
For over 100 years, lower Provo River flows have been diverted out of the river at Olmstead Diversion Dam for hydropower generation. As a result, in-river flows were reduced for an approximately five-mile stretch of the river, with very significant low flow impacts occurring in the most downstream 1.2-mile portion. During periods of high irrigation demand, river flows have dropped below five cubic feet per second (cfs), resulting in warmer water and reduced oxygen levels, which can be fatal to wild brown and rainbow trout populations in this popular fishery.
Facebook was the initial funder of this collaborative project to increase flows in the lower Provo River, supporting the Central Utah Water Conservancy District to help ensure 1.6 million cubic meters (416 million gallons) of water remains in the river during the hottest months of the year for a 10-year period. The company’s initial funding has since been used to raise additional funds to help ensure 4.5 million cubic meters (over 1.2 billion gallons) of water remains in the river between April 15 and October 15 of each year through 2029. These flows will be measured and dedicated to support instream flow in the project reach.
The loss of biodiversity — the rich assortment of living organisms that includes plants, bacteria, animals, insects; every living species — has critical implications for humanity, from the collapse of food chains and health systems to the disruption of entire supply chains. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Risks Report, biodiversity loss is listed as the fifth-highest global risk in terms of likelihood and the fourth-highest risk in terms of impact.
Recognizing that their offices and data centres can impact biodiversity, we are continuously taking steps to both mitigate
that impact and seek opportunities to protect and promote biodiversity where they operate facilities. Through the Biodiversity Program mitigation strategy, Facebook takes a preventive approach by limiting the organisation’s impact on biodiversity where possible, while also partnering with local organizations and communities to restore habitats and ecosystems.
At their Menlo Park headquarters, they installed a 12.5-acre green roof that provides a diverse landscape for local species, offering habitats ranging from grasslands to oak savannas and meadows. The roof serves as a home to over 600 trees and, to date, 5,300 birds representing 50 avian species have been found foraging and nesting on the roof by the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society during monthly surveys. As they continue to develop their Bayfront Campus in Menlo Park, California, they will also focus on diversifying tree species, particularly in the oak (Quercus) family.
The tech company also partners with a number of local nonprofits striving to promote biodiversity and improve habitats near their Menlo Park headquarters, including: Canopy, who they partnered with to plant trees in the Belle Haven neighbourhood of Menlo Park; Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, which focuses on protecting wetlands in the Bay Area; and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, which focuses on bird conservation and has restored habitat for local endangered species, such as the snowy plover and burrowing owl.
In 2020, Facebook partnered with the mayor of Gallatin on the city’s Pollinator Habitat program and committed to providing
nearly 30 acres of improved pollinator habitat at their data centre site in Tennessee over the next two years. At the data
centre in Clonee, Meath Ireland, they implemented a beekeeping program to help cultivate bee hives and planted a variety of native plants on-site to help provide resources for the region’s threatened bee populations. There is currently enough room to accommodate over 500,000 bees at our Clonee data centre.
At their London offices, Facebook partnered with the London Beekeepers Association to provide plantings on the office terraces that support pollinator habitat, helping to preserve the nearly 500 species of pollinator insects native to the U.K. threatened with extinction due to biodiversity loss. In Dublin, they installed beehives at multiple office locations to support local bee population security.
6. Sustainable Data Centres
Supporting their data centres with 100% renewable energy and saving energy and water through efficient designs are the foundations of the tech giant’s CSR strategy to operate sustainable data centres. A key component of that strategy is ensuring that buildings comply with industry standards, specifically the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) — a globally recognized third-party verification standard for sustainable buildings developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
Since their Prineville data centre earned the LEED Gold certification in 2011, they have continued to achieve Gold certification levels — or higher — for all current and new data centres. In 2020, five new construction projects were awarded LEED Gold certification. Additionally, the Singapore data centre, Facebook’s first project in the APAC region, earned Platinum certification under Green Mark, a sustainability standard created by the Singapore government.
As part of the effort to reach net zero emissions for their value chain in 2030, they explored strategies to reduce the
environmental impacts linked to construction activities and building materials like concrete and steel. Last year, in
Altoona, Iowa, they piloted the use of electric construction equipment, such as the Cat D6XE, the world’s first electric drive dozer which uses 25& less diesel fuel compared to traditional bulldozers. Facebook also piloted the Embodied Carbon Construction Calculator (EC3), a new online tool that design and construction teams can use to procure materials that reduce a building’s overall carbon footprint.
6.1. Embedding circularity
The company prioritizes embedding circularity principles into how they design, build, and operate data centres to elevate resource efficiency and reduce carbon footprint. In 2020, five projects that earned LEED Gold diverted an average of 78% of construction materials from landfills. And to help reduce overall waste footprint, the company also collaborated with a major supplier on an initiative to minimize the amount of packaging needed to ship fiber optic cables.
Their circularity principles extend to the kinds of materials they use. To lower the carbon impact of concrete — one of
the largest sources of global greenhouse gas emissions — they partnered with researchers from the University of Urbana-
Champaign’s civil engineering department to use artificial intelligence algorithms to develop low-carbon mix designs that use high amounts of byproducts from other industries as a replacement for cement.
6.2. Economic impact on people
When it builds a data centre in a community, Facebook drives job growth and contributes to economic and community development in the area. According to their latest data centre Economic Impact Report in the U.S., Facebook’s direct investments from 2017 through 2019 in data centre construction and operations contributed a cumulative $18.6 billion to the U.S. GDP and supported over 178,000 jobs. The study found that for every $1 million in capital expenditures, they support 14 jobs, and for every $1 million in operating expenditures, they support 18 jobs. When constructing data centres, they estimate more than 1,000 construction workers are on-site at peak. Once completed, a data centre usually supports over 100 jobs to manage facility and site operations. In EMEA, the data centre spending in Ireland from 2015 to 2018 drove a total of approximately $875 million of sales activity and approximately $228 million of GDP in the country’s construction sector.
In addition to driving economic impact, Facebook supports the local communities by investing in schools, nonprofit organizations, and community projects through direct grantmaking and volunteering. Once a data centre is operational, they launch the Community Action Grants program which provides grants focused on leveraging the power of technology for community benefit, helping people connect online or off and improving local science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education on an annual basis.
7. Community outreach
One example of the effort to support community environmental stewardship is the company’s partnership with GRID Alternatives, a California-based nonprofit installing solar systems on homes in underserved communities. They have provided grants to install 80 photovoltaic systems in communities near the Menlo Park headquarters in California, which are expected to help avoid 3,370 tonnes of GHG emissions over their lifetime and help reduce energy bills for under-resourced families.
Over the past three years, they have also partnered with Build It Green and Franklin Energy in the San Francisco Bay Area through the Healthy Home Connect initiative, which uses multiple funding sources to deliver energy and healthy home upgrades to benefit the community’s most vulnerable populations. Additionally in 2020, they supported the construction of the Ravenswood Bay Trail, a project by Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, to help close a critical gap in the otherwise continuous, 80-mile section of the Bay Trail in the San Francisco Bay Area. This new trail segment increases community access to the bayfront, is a setting for wildlife viewing and environmental education, as well as provides a commute alternative for cyclists.
8. Sustainability among employees
As employees adjusted to working remotely in 2020, Facebook launched the Sustainability@Home educational program to provide resources on leading a more sustainable lifestyle. The program included an educational video series highlighting actionable steps employees can take to reduce their personal carbon footprint, as well as strategies to promote wellbeing while working from home.
Last year, the company held their two largest events—Earth Week and Sustainability Summit — virtually on Workplace, increasing accessibility to the global employee base. Over five days during Earth Week, they hosted 68 virtual events, posts, and livestreams to celebrate Facebook’s sustainability commitments and activate the employee base. By streaming all content through internal Sustainability channels, they increased global awareness of this celebration—with over 7,100 viewers tuning in to the livestreams.
In September 2020, they launched a new internal sustainability event to align with UNGA/Climate Week: the inaugural Sustainability Summit. The goal of this one-day virtual conference was to highlight Sustainability programming across the company and celebrate the cross-functional teams that make this work a reality. There were employee sessions on efforts to build and operate sustainable workplaces, partner with NGOs on water restoration projects, develop a Net Zero 2030 roadmap, and sustainable platform projects.
Disclaimer: This report largely contains extracts from the 2020 Sustainability Report released by Facebook.