AWS adds water commitment to sustainability push

Chris Wellise, director of sustainability for AWS

Amazon Web Services has been looking to build a reputation as a green leader in the cloud, pledging to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy by 2025. And at this week’s Re:invent conference in Las Vegas, it opened another front on its sustainability pledges, promising to be “water-positive” by 2030.

Chris Wellise, director of sustainability for AWS, said it would return more water to communities than it consumes. It will do so, he said, through a combination of greater efficiency, reuse, recycling, and replenishment.

“Half of the world’s population is predicted to be within water stress regions by the end of 2025,” Wellise said. “Water, globally, is a scarce resource.”

Much of the company’s water use is in the form of cooling for the computing and storage resources that make up its cloud in zones around the world. That’s not always the case, though. In some regions, Wellise explained, AWS doesn’t use any water for cooling or only uses it when needed as a backup. Getting to water-positive will see the company operate more recycled water sources and return water used in cooling for agricultural irrigation.

In Canada, AWS is currently at 85 percent renewable energy usage, said Rejean Bourgault, public sector country manager for Canada, and is on track to 100 percent by 2025. The company operates two “very large” solar farms in Alberta, Bourgault noted, together enough to power more than 100,000 homes.

Historically, green efforts like sustainability may have been seen as public relations. But Welisse stressed that’s not the case anymore. Over the last few years, he said he’d seen questions about sustainability, including how AWS approaches sustainability and how its products and services can help customers meet their sustainability goals, rising to the highest priority from the CEO level down.

“I see sustainability rising to parity with really even cost in terms of the kinds of things that drive purchasing decisions,” he said.

He described sustainability as increasingly an area where companies seek to compete to get the most out of their sustainability efforts and be seen as leaders in the field. It’s a field Wellise is happy to be competing in and one where he doesn’t mind seeing even competitors do well.

“It’s a great competition to be in, and I celebrate when our peers and competitors make big strides because it’s good for everyone,” he said. “It’s one of those areas where it’s good if we push each other to achieve more.”

In recent years, questions of sustainability have started to make their way into partner programs, with vendors incentivizing, certifying and rewarding partners’ sustainability efforts on behalf of their customers and their own. For AWS, a big part of that effort is its sustainability marketplace, which highlights partner-built offerings that run on AWS technology.

“The partner ecosystem is a really important way that we can continue to deliver sustainability-related software and services features to our joint customers,” Wellise said.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997.