ESG Matters @ Ashurst episode 14

ESG Matters episode 14: transcript

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Anna-Marie Slot:

Hello and welcome to ESG Matters at Ashurst. I'm Anna-Marie Slot, global ESG and sustainability partner at Ashurst. And thank you for joining me for another episode, in our 30 for Net Zero 30 podcast series, where I've been speaking with champions across the globe around real steps to take now to achieve 2030 goals. Today, I am very pleased to be joined by Yee May Leong, managing director of South Asia at Equinix, who has extensive experience in creating and sustaining business growth. Thank you, Yee May, for joining us today. Can we start off with just telling us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Yee May Leong:

Thank you, Anna. I'm Yee May and I have been in the ICT space for the last 36 years and I am now the MD for Equinix for Asia South and leading the business there.

Anna-Marie Slot:

And doing, I think, quite a lot in the area of looking at how you run such a complex business in a sustainable way. Have you... we've been talking to various people, have you been seeing any shifts in how people are focusing on sustainability or net zero goals over the last, kind of, 18 to 24 months?

Yee May Leong:

Yes. I think, clearly, in the digital space, data centers have had heavy scrutiny because of the massive amount of power we used but our future first strategy journey really has started since 2014 and as we really understood and embraced the need to globalize our sustainability approach. We are the world's digital infrastructure company and we currently operate more than 230 interconnection data centers around the world. And we have this unique opportunity to make a significant impact, by truly leveraging our buildings to drive positive impact for the environment and help our customers green their digital supply chains. And it is truly our mission to protect our planet by setting and reaching our ambitious climate goals and scaling of our buying of renewable energy to cover 100% of our worldwide energy consumption, including the energy consumer, our customers inside our sites. Sustainability, as you've said, is such a big growing area right now and it is fast becoming increasingly really material to all our customers and our key stakeholders.

And there is such a strong societal and business push to its advancing sustainability progress, as concerns from climate change, from wildfires in Australia and California, to major drought, as we've seen in past months, to social justice, diversity and inclusion movements, become more evident and hence an inclusive and equitable world goes hand in hand with sustainable growth. And we've clearly seen a huge focus in this and we've seen more enterprises embrace that and that's heartening to see because, I think, collectively, planet earth really is our home and we need to protect the planet, to ensure that it's sustainable. And recently what we've also done is, really partnered with VMware and AT&T and with AT&T to really collaborate and launch, what we've called, the AT&T Connected Climate Initiative. And hence by joining forces, Equinix is helping AT&T in their efforts to enable their customers to reduce 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. And a partnership with VMware, which highlights Equinix as a zero carbon cloud partner.

And these are some of the initiatives which Equinix has focused on and continues this journey to ensure that we protect the planet and make it more sustainable for everyone.

Anna-Marie Slot:

And all really good points. I mean, I think, the really fascinating thing is, people don't necessarily think of their digital footprint when they're thinking about sustainability and they're thinking about net zero goals. People are so focused on the physical built environment when they talk about what you need to do. But the computing aspects, and exactly what you do, is such a huge part of our businesses ecosystems, at the moment, that your commitments around this are critical to delivering a truly sustainable future. And I don't know that anyone's going to have less cloud computing than they had last week, so it's a really important aspect to focus, to have you guys just leading the charge and focusing on how you decarbonize everything you're doing and go renewable.

We've talked about a lot of the energy aspects of things. I know that you, as a group, are also super focused across that broader view of what it means to be sustainable. You mentioned it, in particular about creating an equitable world. Are there any things in particular that you'd like to share, key take aways that maybe other people can think about, as they look at their own business systems that they might want to implement or work on?

Yee May Leong:

Most definitely, Anna. I think I have been in a really privileged position as well in Equinix, as I am the global executive sponsor for We Are Equinix. And We Are Equinix is the focus that we've put across the company, where we empower our local teams to bring about the initiatives around six focus pillars, wellbeing, fun and creativity, community impact, green and sustainability, DIB and EECN, which is our Equinix Employee Connect Networks. And these covers are our women networks, black connect, gen connect, veteran connect, inter Asian connect, pride connect, faith connect, young professionals connect. And all these are initiatives, which are onboarded by our teams from a local aspect and all our teams come together, at a very country level, at the grassroots, to create this environment, which we all feel, I'm safe, I belong and I matter.

And it's been trailblazing across the world and it's so heartening to see all these teams bring about that awareness around DIB. Just yesterday, I had an allyship with Microsoft where we talked about DIB and what that means. And as part of raising awareness comes better understanding, it becomes a part of our life and it becomes habits. So, I think, these are some of the things that we are focusing, on the S of the ESG. And clearly, from a governance perspective, we work with our customers to provide more transparency and to basically ensure that we continue to advocate globally for sustainable policies and initiatives that align with our sustainability goals and enable both our customers and our own sustainability journeys to embed sustainability globally. And these include policies around greening the grid and de-carbonization, energy management and more. So, these are some of the really exciting things that we have embraced as a company and that makes me really proud, being part of the Equinix family, because we have put so much focus around sustainability and protecting the planet.

Anna-Marie Slot:

That sounds really fascinating. It sounds like a lot of work but also sounds like you have a lot of people engaged, which is a key in the war on talent and how businesses run well. I'm really fascinated actually to hear about all of your different varieties of groups because people talk about gender, they talk about religious backgrounds, they talk about ethnicity but you all have also gone into veterans, which is a fantastic group. I don't know that many people look at them as people who have gone through that kind of experience, as a single group, but really interesting.

Yee May Leong:

And these employee connects are started by the employees, right? So, employees come together, band together and basically have common interests and focus and they then create that awareness and share it with our employees across the world. So, it's something that really enriches all of us and I really do believe, makes us all a better version of ourself because through that awareness and understanding, as I've said earlier, we grow that respect. We, kind of, cut away that unconscious bias and we reach out to each other and it's okay to be vulnerable and it's okay not to be perfect all the time, right? Because that's what we are as human beings. And that's what Equinix is striving for, to create that environment where everybody feels, I'm safe, I belong, I matter. And that makes Equinix a really special place.

Anna-Marie Slot:

And, I guess, staying with the personal side, I always ask people, if they have any of their own commitments around net zero, around sustainability, kind of, in the near term, the next, kind of, year or so.

Yee May Leong:

On a personal side, clearly, I have the professional side, which I'm working with all the teams in Equinix to bring that about. But even from a personal private side, as my son has said to me, he said, mom, I told you about this sustainability thing 10 years ago. And he was really young, right? My whole education and journey in sustainability has been enriched, clearly, through things that I've been working with in Singapore, as Singapore has launched a Singapore Green Plan. It is always also our commitment to partake in, as being a partner to the Singapore government for the Singapore Green Plan. So, we've done things like tree planting, we have done this initiative with the teams in terms of doing almost like an eBay like auction, where we focus on reducing, recycling and reusing and that was a lot of fun. So, things like that to make it fun.

And from a personal commitment, honestly, it's for me to... I hope that I do leave the world zero carbon footprint free and raising awareness amongst the communities is key. And those are some of the things that we are working with, with the institutions and the academic organizations in Singapore, to try and understand where we can partner with them, to work with them on bringing on board more sustainable skills and also sustainability programs, to bring about that awareness with the communities that we work with. Because one of our purpose in Equinix, really, is to be the platform where the world comes together, enabling innovations that enrich work life and planet and those are some of the things that I'm personally very focused on.

Anna-Marie Slot:

Excellent to hear. And lots of opportunities, I think, to think about what you're doing, anyone is doing, in different ways. So, just to wrap things up for today, we've talked a lot about different things that you're doing, we've talked about the massive changes you're making, in terms of where you're sourcing your energy and how you're working through and across your supply chain for that. Is there any specific game changer that you think needs to happen? Obviously, the 2030 goals are not that far away, for those who have come out publicly with net zero 2030 goals. Any thoughts

Yee May Leong:

Yes. Equinix has really truly reduced carbon emissions by 50%, right? Even as our portfolio double. But that's not good enough and we have continued to improve or analyze, what we call, power usage efficiency from 1.62 to 1.51. And we continue to focus on reducing that through our energy consumption, reducing that through our global energy efficiency center of excellence program. And we are also continuing to cover over 90% of renewable energy globally and investing in new investments, which support our commitment to reach 100% clean and renewable. And we are really truly the first data center company to set a global goal to become climate neutral by 2030, which aligns approved science-based targets addressing reduction of scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions. So, I think, first and foremost, it is imperative for industries to normalize their commitments and the definition of net zero.

And these science-based targets have developed net zero guidance for businesses to reference and it's ambitious but additionally, businesses large or small must begin to prioritize and address opportunities to improve efficiencies across their organization operations, including their supply chains. And one company alone is not going to be able to impact that change and the necessary changes to address climate change but by collaborating with like-minded companies, like what I shared earlier, by partnering with our customers to advance low carbon energy policies, sharing renewable energy, buying knowledge, driving sustainability, supply chain best practices and encouraging innovation in the design and operation of sustainable data centers, we are caring for the planet and doing our part to accelerate the world's transition to a clean energy economy. And that's what we need to do collectively, together.

Anna-Marie Slot:

A great ending point. So, thank you so much, Yee May, for joining us today, it's been fascinating to see how you've done it and what you're still working on. And really, really impressive stats around how you are transforming the company and how we need to transform the business ecosystem as a whole. So, thanks so much for your time.

Yee May Leong:

Thank you so much for of the opportunity, Anna. Thank you.

Anna-Marie Slot:

Thank you for listening to this podcast, we hope you found it worthwhile. To learn more about the issues we've just covered, please visit This 30 for Net Zero 30 episode is just one small part of our continuing podcast series, ESG Matters at Ashurst. Make sure you don't miss any of our future episodes by subscribing via Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcast. While you're there, you can also listen to our other episodes and leave a rating or review. In the meantime, thanks again for listening and goodbye for now.

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