eBay’s 7 best practices for successful collaboration

San Jose, CA — Editor's Note: To learn about eBay's data center design using Bloom Energy's fuel cells, be sure to check out VERGE@Greenbuild, November 12-13.

The most successful corporate sustainability initiatives are driven by internal collaboration across organizational divisions as well as partnerships with external stakeholders to share mutual goals.

That in itself isn't a new concept for GreenBiz readers, but eBay's ongoing data center expansion and related energy sourcing strategy offers a vivid example of what that really means -- and what really works.

"The more allies you have, the better," said David London, senior director for US government relations at eBay, which is the group responsible for the company's energy policy.

London participated with two of his colleagues on a panel this week in New York at the annual BSR conference on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. The other panelists were Lori Duvall, global director for eBay's Green initiatives, and Jeremy Rodriguez, distinguished engineer of data center services.

First, some background. When it comes to managing power consumption, one of eBay's biggest focuses is its data centers, which account for 55 percent to 60 percent of the San Jose, Calif.-based company's carbon emissions.

"Working for a fast growing company makes sustainable initiatives tough," Duvall said. "You need data centers, but you need to make good choices about where to put them. That is driven by cost, but you get pushed to put data centers where the power isn't particularly carbon friendly. With any luck, our footprint will grow out of necessity. But we have to start asking ourselves -- what can we really do about it?"

The business reality is that eBay's expectations for data center reliability and latency (a fancy word for performance) pretty much trump most other concerns. Any serious e-commerce or Internet services provider must locate its data center in certain regions where they can have the best connections, Rodriguez said.

Image of eBay and PayPal headquarters in San Jose provided by Leon7 via Wikimedia Commons.

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