Consumers clearly have concerns about sharing their personal data with brands and businesses because of privacy concerns—but that’s not the only reason. New research from data management firm Veritas Technologies reveals that consumers are wary of data polluters—businesses that hoard their data even when it’s no longer needed—and plan to take action.
According to the firm’s new report, Consumer Sentiment on the Environmental Impact of Hoarding Unnecessary Enterprise Data, half of consumers (49 percent) think it’s the responsibility of the organizations that store their information online to delete it when not needed. They’re also prepared to vote with their feet if businesses don’t cut back on data-related pollution—nearly half (47 percent) said they would stop buying from a company if they knew it was willfully causing environmental damage by failing to control how much unnecessary or unwanted data it is storing.
Environment impact is a major consumer concern
The research, which polled 13,000 consumers around the world, also found that nearly half (46 percent) said it concerns them that 2 percent of global energy-related pollution emissions are caused by data centers. In response, three-fifths (59 percent) said they would like to see more focus from organizations on controlling the negative impact of online data storage on the environment. This could include organizations encouraging their customers to close unused or inactive accounts and guidance on deleting obsolete information they no longer need or want.
“Beyond the costs of storing data, the hidden costs of its environmental impact should be at the top of every business leader’s agenda,” said Rags Srinivasan, chief sustainability officer at Veritas Technologies, in a news release. “Data centers run 24 hours a day and by 2030 are expected to use as much as 8 percent of all electricity on the planet. It’s easy to forget that data centers are mostly fossil fuel-powered and generate about the same amount of CO2 as the airline industry.”
The new research also found that half (51 percent) of consumers said it concerns them that online data storage wastes energy and produces environmental pollution when, on average, half of the data enterprises store is redundant, obsolete or trivial (ROT), and another 35 percent is “dark” with unknown value, according to separate Veritas research in which IT decision makers reported the percentages of ROT, dark and business critical data within their organizations.
“Organizations should not underestimate the environmental impact of poor data management practices, even if they are outsourcing their storage to public cloud providers,” Srinivasan added. “Many consumers feel passionately about reducing their carbon footprints, but the average organization is still causing more pollution by storing data they know is not needed than data they believe to be useful—on average, just 15 percent of data is business critical. With half of customers saying they would stop buying from companies that fail to get a grip on the challenge, the risk for both businesses and the environment of not identifying and eliminating unneeded data is too great to ignore any longer.”
The survey, conducted by 3Gem on behalf of Veritas, polled 13,000 consumers across Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the UAE, the UK and the USA between February 1-16, 2023.