For the Future: How Western Digital Achieves ESG Excellence

Posted by Thomas Ebrahimi, Western Digital 27-09-2023 02:47 PM

Sustainability is no longer a buzzword but a real business focus for companies around the world. Respecting the planet improves local habitats and communities while driving down costs. To achieve its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, Western Digital leverages its technological and engineering expertise at all levels of the business. 

Strategy and leadership
Western Digital already set ambitious targets and has achieved impressive milestones, including a reduction of Scope 1 and 2 emissions by more than 14% from 2020 to 2022. For true excellence, though, the company’s business units, partners, and customers must collaborate and work toward a shared vision for the future.

Engagement with large enterprise customers on sustainability has increased over the past couple of years. Customers want more time with us to collaborate on sustainability, to share insights, and to drive mutual progress on reducing climate impact throughout the value chain.

By better understanding the ecosystem of customers, suppliers, and partners, Western Digital can drive significant progress. The company supplies millions of products to customers all over the world, so by developing intimate understandings between all stakeholders, Western Digital can do more than it would alone.

Reducing impact: from manufacturing to the data center
Realizing that shared vision takes cutting-edge technology and operations. Xiaodong Che is the chief technology officer of Western Digital’s HDD business unit, and under his supervision, the company has delivered the highest capacity drives in the industry.

For Western Digital’s customers, this means using fewer drives to meet storage needs. Fewer drives save money and energy, a huge boon for hyperscale cloud customers that deal in exabytes. “On the hard drive side, about 50% of the carbon footprint of the product when it arrives at our customer comes from our own internal manufacturing,” Parker said. “So if we use 100% renewable energy, we can cut that footprint in half. That’s huge for us, and that’s huge for our customers.”

Driving the processes to reduce the company’s manufacturing impact on the planet is Jackie Jung, VP of operations strategy at Western Digital. Jung and her team lead efforts on making Western Digital’s global facilities more efficient by implementing advanced Industry 4.0 technologies. One of Jung’s new focuses is collaborating with governments to achieve ESG goals at factories around the world.

Focused on a responsible future
From more sustainable products to futuristic manufacturing techniques, Western Digital has laid a strong foundation for its continued ESG effort. Ambition was a key in all of these efforts, and that will be true for the next phase of innovation. For Che and his team of engineers, the next big endeavor is figuring out material reclamation and recycling.

“If we look at the whole cycle, e-waste is definitely one of the huge parts that we have to address. As data centers grow, eventually there will be a need to replace drives, and that’s an area of e-waste we’re looking at,” Che said. “The plastics, the magnets, these are things we’re looking at for reclaiming, recycling, or reusing.”

Simultaneously, the company recognizes that the use of precious metals in its products is a necessarily extractive part of its business. Che sees this as an important challenge and opportunity for his team. “Of the 90 stable elements, about 60 of them are used in our devices. Many of those are rare metals, crucial minerals,” he said. “As we grow capacity and units in the data center, we must ensure in the future we have a responsible way to reuse or recycle those materials.”

Thomas Ebrahimi, Western Digital.