Equifax fuels journey to Net Zero through cloud-native transformation

December 09, 2022

Financial Times highlights data industry’s impact on sustainability in dialogue with Equifax, Google Cloud and Ovo Energy

Equifax is gaining traction against its commitment to reach Net Zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2040. One of the key drivers reducing emissions is the company’s cloud-native transformation – moving its technology to the cloud for increased security, speed and agile innovation. In a recent Financial Times Global Boardroom Conference, Chief Product, Data, Analytics and Technology Officer Bryson Koehler shared perspectives from Equifax’s environmental journey.

The panel was part of a multi-day dialogue on strategies for sustainable growth in times of geopolitical and economic disruption. Moderator Malcolm Moore, Editor, Financial Times, led the conversation with Koehler and his fellow panelists, Justin Keeble, Managing Director of Global Sustainability at Google Cloud, and Christina Scott, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Ovo Energy. The cross-sector leaders discussed the environmental impacts of data and how technology can make a significant impact toward sustainability goals. 

For Equifax, rebuilding its applications in the cloud is a critical part of its environmental strategy. Data centers make up approximately 50% of the company’s total scope 1 and 2 emissions, net of renewable energy. 

“We see Cloud as a key piece of our carbon plan,” Koehler said. “For us to reach our goals by 2040, Cloud is a massive piece of how we will get there.” 

As a part of the company’s initiative to rebuild its applications in the Equifax Cloud, it has decommissioned 19 data centers to date, including 7 decommissions in 2022. 

Carbon Savings from Cloud Computing 

“You have to think about your carbon inventory almost like you would think about your traditional CMDB (configuration management database) or ITAM (IT asset management) inventory in a traditional IT shop,” Koehler said. “This is just now another attribute of data against that inventory, against that footprint.”

Leveraging an “infrastructure as code” strategy, Equifax has been moving all its workloads to an integrated data fabric in a secure cloud environment. Cloud computing is now changing the environmental landscape, in Koehler’s view.

“Cloud compute, as an infrastructure, has to be seen as the next version of a utility,” Koehler said. “In the past, neighborhoods and factories would build their own power plants, and that turned out to be highly inefficient. It was much better for utilities to form and to create power at scale.” 

 For Koehler, working with hyperscalers such as Google Cloud and AWS is an efficient way to leverage data centers in multiple global regions. Public cloud providers can accelerate Equifax’s pace of product innovation while also reducing its carbon footprint.

 “You can follow the sun and move your workloads to places where it’s an overnight hour and there’s more capacity available.” Koehler said. “That creates more efficiency, more utilization of the equipment that’s been deployed. Because it’s not just about power [usage] – but think about all of the waste from [hardware] that’s created and has to be disposed of. ” 

Running an efficient cloud data operation is a vast undertaking, but the same energy-savings principles apply from the consumer world. 

“Charging our cars overnight maximizes the utility grid on a 24/7 clock, and we can now do the same with our compute workloads by moving them around the world,” Koehler added.  

Real-World Results 

Beyond leveraging the cloud for energy efficiency, Koehler highlighted the key role that Equifax plays in supporting energy savings in people’s day-to-day lives. 

“Ensuring that we can help that bank or car company extend that loan or that lease — so that person can upgrade their 12-year-old car to something that’s more modern, more efficient, or maybe even an EV — is actually part of that whole [sustainability] cycle,” he said.  

 Equifax’s sustainability plan is already showing results. Its combined scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions have decreased each year since 2019, with an approximate 13.5% decrease between 2019 and 2021. 

 To see how its cloud-based operations are tracking, Equifax ran a “what-if scenario” to compare its recent efficiencies on cloud to the carbon outputs that would have been generated by legacy technology. The result: the company estimates that last year, its use of the cloud avoided approximately 6,000 metric tons that would have been produced by the same work from an onsite data center. The volume of avoided emissions continues to increase with each application migrated to the cloud. 

Sustainability and digital transformation are ranked as high priorities for businesses around the world. Both are serious endeavors that require investment, shared commitment and, most importantly, behavior changes at the individual level. 

For companies setting out on the road to Net Zero, Koehler suggests an optimistic approach. 

“Don’t make [sustainability efforts] some sort of checklist or spreadsheet or something that becomes a laborious thing,” Koehler said. “Make it something fun and exciting so that people feel like they are really achieving something. You can visualize it and find ways to use it as a competitive advantage. If you do that, you get that flywheel turning – and that becomes where real change happens.” 

Read more about how the cloud is driving sustainability in financial services and Equifax’s environment and energy strategy.


Bryson Koehler, Equifax Chief Product, Data, Analytics and Technology Officer, speaks on the Financial Times The Global Boardroom panel on “Data and Sustainability: A new path to competitive advantage?” Footage provided by Financial Times Live.