An Assessment of Select Web Hosts based on Disclosed Environmental Practices

by John Haugen, Third Partners, LLC
with Andrew Boardman, Manoverboard

Data Center

Data centers are central to the operations of many companies, especially those that operate on the web. A frequently overlooked aspect of data center operations is the environmental effect of the electricity that powers this equipment.

Simply put, data centers use a significant amount of energy: Analytics Press estimates that data centers used 1.3% of global electricity in 2010 and 2% in the United States. The New York Times claims that as a result of inefficient operation, “data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid.“

Manoverboard commissioned Third Partners to produce an assessment of the environmental merits of several hosting and data center providers. Manoverboard is a web design and development firm based in Winnipeg that is also a Certified B Corporation. According to the nonprofit B Lab that runs the certification program, “B Corps are certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.“ Manoverboard needed to better understand its options for itself and its clients in evaluating the environmental performance of its web-based business.


Manoverboard identified a select list of ten hosting providers relevant to their operations. Each hosting provider was assessed on the following areas of environmental performance:

Energy Supply

  • Energy mix of the local electricity grid
  • Low-GHG Grid % – percent of the grid that is supplied by power plants that produce zero or low-GHG power
  • Emission Factor of the local grid is based on the energy mix identified above
  • Clean Energy Procurement choices, in order of positive environmental impact:
    • On-site renewable energy on a microgrid
    • On-site renewable energy net metered into the grid?
    • Off-site renewable energy, or participation in a Renewable Energy Credit (REC) market
    • Purchase of Carbon Offsets

Energy Efficiency

  • Power Use Efficiency (PUE): the ratio of total electricity consumed in a data center facility relative to the electricity consumed only for computing power
  • Space Cooling Methods
  • Other Energy Efficiency (energy monitoring systems, energy efficient lighting, etc.)

Other Sustainability Considerations

  • Sustainability Policies & Corporate Commitments
  • Certifications & Awards, either data center or green building
  • Energy-Efficient Equipment
  • Procurement practices and e-waste policies
  • Backup systems & generators

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