VMware Discovery Center Opens with a Commitment to Innovation, Sustainability and Resilience


By Nicola Acutt, VMware Vice President of Sustainability Strategy

Since our inception, we’ve strived to operate our business in a responsible and sustainable manner. From our global commitment to green building practices to the order of magnitude our technology delivers in terms of energy and carbon emission reductions in IT, VMware aims to leave ahead a better future by weaving sustainability into everything we do, including the opening of our new VMware Discovery Center.

Opening Day of the VMware Discovery Center

On opening day—Nov. 1, 2018—we hosted a multifaceted, packed celebration of innovation focused on our global impact initiatives and vision for the future of tech for good.

First, we announced a major milestone along our sustainability journey: We became a certified CarbonNeutral® company, in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol, two years ahead of schedule. We established this goal in our Global Impact Report as part of our VMware 2020 Vision. We achieved it through a combination of energy-efficiency initiatives; renewable energy projects and purchasing and delivering financing to low-carbon, sustainable development projects. This represents a significant step toward fulfilling our commitment both to long-term sustainability and to accountability and transparency in managing our environmental footprint.

To celebrate this vision of innovation and sustainability, we also had the honor of hosting Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo. These leaders spoke about the importance of public-private partnerships at the local, state and federal levels to innovate ways for society to become more sustainable and resilient.

This is no small feat. According to the U.N.’s latest report, as a society we need to shift 70-85 percent of electricity to renewable energy sources by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Given this urgency, we believe we must collaborate across government, industry and community to find innovative solutions that mitigate and help us adapt to this global challenge.

Ongoing Commitment to Green Buildings

Buildings account for 39 percent of CO2 emissions in the U.S. Mostly it’s the result of heating, cooling and lighting, in addition to the appliances and electrical equipment we must plug in. That’s why innovation in green building can play a major role in reducing the impact of climate change. It’s why we have a long-standing commitment to sustainable buildings.

VMware currently has 12 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. This includes two LEED Platinum certifications: one at our office in Bangalore and one at our data center in Washington. We designed the new VMware Discovery Center, at our headquarters in Palo Alto, to LEED Platinum standards to provide an innovative, sustainable space for collaboration and inspiration with our customers, employees and community.

With a magnificent view over Silicon Valley, the VMware Discovery Center features Forest Stewardship Council certified wood wherever possible, as well as wood and metal ceiling treatments manufactured with 63 percent pre-consumer recycled content. The carpeting is Green Label Plus certified and features low-VOC materials throughout the building.

We also added charging stations to our already sizeable electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This now includes 78 ports across our campus, and we dedicated 15 new priority parking spots for carpool and clean air vehicles.

In striving for leadership in environmental design, we prioritized energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy.

Community Microgrid Proof-of-Concept with the City of Palo Alto

Our VMware Discovery Center sources approximately 20 percent of its power from rooftop solar panels. We will connect this onsite renewable energy with solar power across the campus to create a community microgrid.

The highly digital modern world of the future will require an energy grid that’s not only clean but also reliable and resilient. Renewable energy resources like wind and solar are variable and inconsistent, shifting up and down depending on weather conditions. Integrating renewables into the grid, while maintaining reliability, means coming up with new and innovative ways to balance and secure the grid. That’s why we believe in innovation and partnership on projects like a microgrid.

Beginning as a proof of concept, the microgrid will serve as a testbed to control distributed energy resources and integrate local renewable energy in order to maintain resilience at the corporate and community level. Because we believe resilience is sustainability’s twin, we will partner with the City of Palo Alto to explore the potential use of the microgrid to augment:

  1. the community’s emergency services by providing a charging site for the City’s emergency command vehicles.
  2. an emergency communications node that can be used during major emergencies that cause extended power outages and fuel shortages.

Getting this proof-of-concept off the ground is another example of our belief in exponential innovation that shifts the needle on our sustainability journey.

The new Discovery Center, as a forum that intends to inspire collaboration, is an especially fitting space for celebrating these milestones and engaging luminaries in a discussion on how technology and digital infrastructure can help the industry meet the U.N.'s 2030 goals.

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

Technology’s Role in Sustainable Development

To wrap up our Discovery Center opening celebration, and build on our long-standing commitment to innovation, we  engaged some of the brightest minds on the topic of “Innovating for Good–The Opportunity and Responsibility for Tech.” Recognizing the important synergies between the Fourth Industrial Revolution and accelerating progress on the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we believe the tech sector has a major role to play, specifically in Goal #9: Industries, Innovation, and Infrastructure.

VMware Discovery Center Panel Radius

Panelists, from left to right, include: Bob Sutton, Stanford professor and author; Debra Dunn, co-founder of Stanford University’s FEED Collaborative; Victoria E. Lee, project lead of Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth for World Economic Forum; Jonathan Reichental, chief information officer of the City of Palo Alto; Nicola Acutt, VMware vice president of sustainability strategy.

Hosted by Chris Coulter, chief executive officer of GlobeScan, we facilitated a dialogue focused on the collective opportunity to drive resilient and sustainable economic development. I was honored to participate, along with several distinguished thought leaders:

  • Jonathan Reichental, chief information officer of the City of Palo Alto, shared the promise of mobile to provide auxiliary medical professionals to remote areas.
  • Victoria E. Lee, project lead of Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth for World Economic Forum, discussed the intersection of technology with the 17 SDGs, including innovations in food, water, energy and access for all to the internet.
  • Debra Dunn, co-founder of Stanford University’s FEED Collaborative, shared several examples of how technology innovation helps solve complicated problems, like human trafficking through data mining and management.
  • Bob Sutton, Stanford professor and author, cautioned technology companies to take the time to spread excellence and not rush to a solution.

Looking Over the Horizon

The opening celebration of our VMware Discovery Center brought members of our community together to discuss and imagine how we can collectively prioritize sustainability and resiliency for people and the planet. For our part, we will continue to participate in this critical conversation. As we chart our path forward, we are more committed than ever to be intentional; to do what we can to leave ahead a better future—putting back more than we take—and to inspire our employees, customers and partners to do the same.