Last year, the health and safety of our global employees remained a top priority, and we quickly shifted our projects online as employees began remote work, in adherence to local public health guidance. But we also continued to focus on sustainable business practices and reporting, as climate change is one of the most urgent challenges facing the world. Today, we are releasing our second annual Sustainability Report and sharing our progress, as well as our latest environmental data, which was reviewed and verified by a third party.
In 2018, we committed to reducing our operational greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent from 2017 levels and supporting our global operations with 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2020. We’re excited to share that we have surpassed the first goal and met the second goal. We reduced emissions by 94 percent compared with 2017 levels and achieved net zero emissions overall by supporting projects that remove emissions from the atmosphere for the remaining emissions. For example, we invested in high-quality carbon removal projects, including forestry projects in East Africa and the Mississippi River Valley that removed 145,000 metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere.
In achieving 100 percent renewable energy in our global operations, we are now supporting all our data centers and offices, as well as our employees who worked from home during the pandemic, with renewable energy. At the end of 2020, our global portfolio totaled over 5.9 GW of wind and solar projects under contract, and we increased our operating portfolio of wind and solar to over 2.8 GW, spanning 15 U.S. states, Europe, and Asia.
At our data centers, water is mainly used in two ways: evaporative cooling and humidification. Thanks to innovative design, our data centers are over 80 percent more water-efficient than the average data center, and we are always striving to become more efficient. In addition, we also support projects that restore local watersheds near our water-strained data center communities. In 2020, we restored nearly as much water as we consumed to the watersheds where we operate. To date, we have contracted 9 water projects in four high-risk regions, and expect to restore approximately 2.25 million cubic meters (~595 million gallons) each year. (Updated on August 16, 2021 to correct the total volume of water we restored.)
At Facebook, sustainability means more than operating responsibly and minimizing our environmental impact — it means having a positive effect on communities around the world and within our supply chain. In September, we announced our most ambitious goal yet: to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across our value chain in 2030. Science tells us that the next 10 years will be critically important for curbing climate change. Given that reality, reducing emissions across our value chain — our hardware, the goods and services we purchase, construction of our facilities, and business travel — is one of our top priorities.
As we look to accelerate support in local communities, we recognize that climate change is experienced differently across regions and groups of people, specifically Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and economically distressed communities. Many of these communities already experience the worst impacts of climate change — extreme temperatures, pollution, or weather patterns — due to the lack of access to adequate resources. To address this lack of access, we support projects such as a locally managed reforestation and sustainable development project in Kenya and Uganda, which will help sustain existing income and improve crop yields for commodities such as fruit, nuts, and timber for smallholder farmers. Our purchase of carbon credits also created a new source of income in the form of direct payments to the farmers.
Beyond doing our part to reduce our environmental footprint, we also leverage our core products and services to build community and accelerate access to climate science information and climate action, often partnering with others to scale solutions that help fight climate change. For instance, in 2020, Facebook launched the Climate Science Information Center, which aims to share climate science and clear actions we can all take to fight the climate crisis. More than 60 million people globally have visited the platform since its inception with an average of 240,000 visitors every day.
In June 2021, we published The Rethinkers, an 11-episode documentary series featuring inspiring stories from real people who are using our platform to address the climate crisis and inspire others to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.
We are also actively mapping our progress to implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and working closely with U.N. agencies to increase our transparency. In 2019, we joined the 2030Vision group alongside Microsoft, Salesforce, Samsung, SoftBank, Unicef, the University of Cambridge, and others to put technology at the heart of achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Goals. In September 2020, we also joined the U.N.’s Race to Zero campaign, the largest global campaign and alliance of businesses, cities, investors, and higher-education institutions committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To address the UN’s Goal #16 of sustainable cities and communities, we are taking a preventive approach to tackling loss of biodiversity. To start, we are taking steps to both mitigate the impact and seek opportunities to protect and promote biodiversity where we operate offices and data centers. At our Menlo Park headquarters, we installed a 12.5-acre green roof that serves as a home to over 600 trees and, to date, 5,300 birds representing 50 avian species. At our data center in Clonee, County Meath, Ireland, we implemented a beekeeping program to help cultivate bee hives and planted a variety of native plants onsite to help provide resources for the region’s threatened bee populations. There is currently enough room to accommodate over 500,000 bees. We plan to expand these efforts at additional office locations globally in 2021 and beyond.
Sustainability is at the core of how we operate, and as our operations continue to grow, we will continue to look for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and new renewable energy projects that support our operations going forward. We will continue to build transparency into our strategy and reporting to hold ourselves accountable to our commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across our value chain in 2030.
To learn more about our efforts, read the full report: Sustainability Report.
Director of Global Sustainability
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