Sustainability & the Environment

Always on. Always secure. Always getting greener.

Visa operates at the heart of Europe’s payments ecosystem – and at the heart of our own business are two astonishing data centres.

Together, they crunch their way through 490 transactions a second (rising to 1,600 at peak times). In less than a tenth of a second, they identify your Visa account, screen your transaction for fraud, and route it through to your card issuer – and they haven’t suffered a single second of downtime in more than seven years (and that equates to more than 145 billion transactions).

Typically, a data centre will consume 100 times more energy than an equivalent sized office building. So they are the focus of our environmental programmes – and we are making some big leaps forward.

It’s good for our conscience (we are committed to operating responsibly). It’s good for our business (increasingly, our customers demand proof of our environmental credentials). It’s also good for our bank balance (the annual electricity bill runs to more than GB £1.7 million).

Clear Disciplines

The key to our environmental improvements is the ISO4001 standard. This gives us a plan, enables us to track our performance, forces us to find continuous improvements, and makes sure the subject is top-of-mind with our leadership team.

To bring more discipline, we also participate in other environmental initiatives (like the UK Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment programme, and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol). And, to benchmark our performance, we get it audited (for example, under the BREEAM initiative), and compare it with best practice (such as the WRAP Good Practice Targets).

Unusual Challenges

The big challenge we face is in applying innovative and sometimes unproven energy efficiency solutions to our business critical systems. After all, consistent, 100% availability is a given, and our data centres are on the UK Government’s ‘critical national infrastructure’ list.

Even so, we do make continual improvements using, for example, heat pumps, enclosed cold aisles and chilled-water cooling systems. Also, our newest data centre has achieved a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating.

Big leaps forward

Across every dimension, we are always getting greener.  For example:

  • Water – we have pushed our annual water use down to 5.1m³ per full time employees
    (whereas the WRAP Green Official Guide suggests an acceptable figure of 6.5 m³)
  • Waste – in the past year alone our recycling rates have risen from 70% to 78%
    (WRAP suggests a Good Practice Target of 60-to-70%) whilst our paper use fell by a third
  • Energy – all of our electricity comes from renewable sources, and our annual carbon emissions are running at 14,329 tonnes.

What does that mean?

Well, back in 2009, each transaction we processed came at the cost of 1.56 grams of carbon. By 2014 that figure had plummeted to 0.4 grams.

And how big is that?

Well, it’s been reported that a Google search is the equivalent of 0.8 grams. And every active user on Facebook equates to 269 grams a month. Meanwhile, driving one kilometre emits 140 grams. And, in manufacturing an average smartphone, 16kg is emitted.

So, by comparison, we are pleased by our performance – and we are always finding ways to better it.

A focus for the coming months is our participation in the UK Government’s Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), which will help us monitor and manage the environmental impact of our business travel. We have already implemented many policies (for example, in preferring trains to planes, and advocating video-conferences). But from here on in, we will be tracking all of our business miles and targeting ongoing improvements.

Formula E sponsorship

We are proud to be sponsoring Formula E, an innovative, modern and environmentally conscious version of motorsport.

Formula E is a new FIA championship featuring Formula cars powered exclusively by electric energy. It represents a vision for the future of the motor industry over the coming decades, serving as a framework for research and development around the electric vehicle, accelerating general interest in these cars and promoting sustainability. Commencing in September 2014, the championship will compete in the heart of 10 of the world's leading cities - including London, Beijing and Miami - racing around their iconic landmarks. For the inaugural season, 10 teams, each with two drivers, will go head-to-head creating a unique and exciting racing series designed to appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans. Operating as an 'open championship', the series gives car manufacturers and constructors the opportunity to showcase their electrical energy innovations in a racing environment, designing cars to the technical specifications set out by the FIA.

Follow Formula E:

Twitter: @FIAformulaE #DrivetheFuture