Author: Jennifer Cohn

In her role as Senior Business Manager, Jennifer assists clients in finding tailored strategies and solutions to take immediate action toward a sustainable future.

Stepping through a cybersecurity company’s journey to 100% clean energy

An interview with Zscaler’s Senior Director of ESG Strategy and Engagement

For Zscaler, a Silicon Valley-based cloud security provider, tackling critical Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) issues is a cornerstone of its business. As the world becomes increasingly hyperconnected while simultaneously more distributed, cybersecurity is surfacing as a key ESG topic for organizations around the globe. So for a company like Zscaler that sits squarely at the intersection of technology and ESG, committing to ambitious climate action is a natural extension of its corporate identity. 

Recently, I sat down with Victor Wong, Senior Director, ESG Strategy and Engagement at Zscaler, to learn more about the company’s ESG philosophy, how it approached its recent work to match 100% of its office and data center emissions with clean energy, and the next steps for the company in its climate action journey.

3Degrees – JC: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk through your recent renewable energy work. To start with, can you introduce yourself, Zscaler, and explain your role with the company?

Zscaler – VW: Of course, happy to. I serve as Zscaler’s Senior Director of ESG Strategy and Engagement. My job is to work with leaders across the company to drive Zscaler’s ESG efforts in support of the company’s growth.

Zscaler is an innovative cloud security provider that is helping to build the future of cybersecurity. The company has built a scalable zero-trust cloud platform designed to improve the digital experience of its users and defend against the largest cybersecurity threats in today’s world. Our efficient cloud spans 150+ data centers globally and services over 5,600 customers and their employees around the world.

3Degrees – JC: How does Zscaler’s work in cloud security intersect with ESG topics?

Zscaler – VW: With the rise of cyberattacks, data loss, and ransomware, cybersecurity is becoming a critical ESG topic discussed among the C-suite and in boardrooms around the world. The past few years have seen a huge shift in how, where, and when people work. Our solutions accelerate companies’ secure digital transformation initiatives by providing fast and secure access to cloud resources for their employees working from anywhere.

Of course, the environment is a key ESG topic. Many of our customerslarge multi-national organizationshave set environmental goals. By eliminating hundreds of thousands of legacy IT hardware and shifting digital infrastructure to a highly efficient cloud, our customers are able to directly mitigate the environmental impact of securely conducting business.

3Degrees – JC: ESG topics are certainly evolving in the digital world. Can you provide some examples of how your organization has demonstrated its ESG philosophy?

Zscaler – VW: One aspect of my role is to fully understand and manage Zscaler’s environmental footprint, to do our part to fight climate change, and to offer a lower carbon impact product that will benefit our customers. When customers entrust their cybersecurity to our cloud, they have the ability to improve their environmental impact by removing on-premises hardware, which also reduces—or even eliminates—activities like shipping, handling, and business travel associated with installing and maintaining stacks of security appliances.

Furthermore, we have recently quantified the energy consumption of our office operations and of the infrastructure used to run our security cloud in data centers around the world. Using this information, we partnered with your organization, 3Degrees, to support renewable energy through the purchase of environmental attribute certificates (EACs) to match the projected MWhs that weren’t already backed by renewables.

3Degrees – JC: I would love to know more about the lead up to your work with 3Degrees. Can you tell me some of the background work you did to quantify your operational and data center emissions?

Zscaler – VW: Absolutely. Our products were born in the cloud and engineered for efficiency, so we knew that we were starting from a good place. Efforts to reduce emissions typically start with collecting data to fully understand impacts. Our approach was no different. We spent time gathering information across our operations.  Luckily, our Cloud Operations team has been collecting detailed data on our cloud infrastructure and our data centers. We worked cross-functionally within the company to obtain a full list of locations and contracted energy use.

My team worked to develop a methodology to calculate our energy usage that is based on data, which has been third-party verified. We calculated the megawatt-hours of energy we were using to power our global offices and cloud that did not already come from renewable sources. At that point, we explored various options to mitigate our impacts for the type of footprint that we had, and determined supporting renewable energy generation through the purchase of high-quality EACs was the best path forward.

3Degrees – JC: You’ve taken a unique approach to address Zscaler’s emissions from data centers. How did you land on this approach?

Zscaler – VW: Data centers are vital to our business so we always place care and attention with who we work with and how we approach it. Our philosophy is to address our biggest impacts, regardless of what the scope is. We also have a maniacal focus on our customers, and are proud to be able to offer them the best Zero Trust Security, which we complement by supporting renewable energy projects in the same regions. We run our own cloud— which processes over 210B transactions a day—in order to provide our customers with the best possible user experience. Given its importance and scale, we felt it was only right to elevate our data center emissions and begin addressing these impacts.

3Degrees – JC: What are some of the initial results of this engagement?

Zscaler – VW: As a result of this engagement we now match the electricity consumption of our security cloud  and offices with RECs and their global equivalents. This work positions us to be a stronger partner and ally to our customers who share the same goals. This initiative allowed us to demonstrate concrete environmental progress as we evolve our ESG program. We’ve had very positive engagements with our stakeholders – from employees, customers, and investors.

3Degrees – JC: What next steps is Zscaler likely to take?

Zscaler – VW: Zscaler is growing at a tremendous rate – our cloud typically doubles every 18 months. So it’s crucial to manage our impacts. We’re always thinking ahead about what a better world looks like. Digital transformation is the future and we’re intent on using our position to enable the modernization of work while minimizing climate impact. 

As an immediate first step, we are purchasing environmental attribute certificates to match the electricity we know to be occurring upstream. In effect, we are doing this on behalf of our data center vendors. We will continue to engage with our data center vendors to help bring down emissions through the continued support of renewable energy.

We’re proud to be building the best cloud for our customers which includes, continuing to refine integration of renewable energy into business operations, procuring quality renewable energy credits, and working with global partners like 3Degrees that are at the forefront of the energy transition and decarbonization.


I would like to thank Victor and Zscaler for sharing their story. This work demonstrates how companies can take action to address climate change by supporting renewable energy projects globally. This begins with accurate emissions calculations and a clear understanding of best-fit renewable energy and decarbonization solutions. To learn more about what this process would look like for your organization, click here

A walk in the woods: seeing the value of carbon credits IRL

The voluntary carbon market is experiencing never-before-seen growth. With the degree to which governments and corporations around the world are signing on to ambitious emission reduction targets, it’s clear that carbon credits will be part of a larger global net zero strategy. With unprecedented growth comes new opportunities for voluntary carbon investments.  Many industry leaders are committing to, or have already invested in, innovative nature-based or technology-based solutions that will help them achieve their future net zero targets. While the voluntary carbon market will continue to scale, we’re already seeing examples of real impact today.

Proof of this can be found deep within the vast forest region of rural southern Washington, where you can find imposing Douglas firs and lush, five-foot ferns. North of Mt. St. Helens, sprawling along the banks of a crystal-clear lake and in close proximity to its namesake Winston Creek, is the Winston Creek Forest Carbon Project. The project is owned by Port Blakely, a fifth-generation, family-owned and operated sustainable timber company with a mission to “cultivate a healthy world” by implementing and advocating for progressive forest management practices.

Recently, Port Blakely invited 3Degrees and members of the Sustainability team at REI Co-op to break away from our computer screens and spend a day immersed in the fresh air of the Winston Creek Forest.

WATCH THE VIDEO

REI’s commitment to the Winston Creek Forest Project

Founded  in 1938, REI has long incorporated environmentally-ethical business practices into its operation. Earlier this year, the long-time 3Degrees customer announced that it had achieved its 14-year carbon neutrality commitment. This commitment involved balancing its residual emissions with an equivalent investment in the sequestration or avoidance of emissions through the purchase of carbon credits. REI has also set a target to more than halve its emissions by 2030.

REI worked with 3Degrees to construct a diverse portfolio of high-quality carbon projects that both sequester and avoid GHG emissions, as well as support environmental and social co-benefits. As part of this portfolio, REI invested in the Winston Creek Forest Carbon Project. For REI, an organization dedicated to helping everyone experience the transformational power of nature, supporting this project was a natural extension of its commitment to the environment. And the fact that the Co-op’s headquarters is located just over 70 miles to the north of this dense forest, made the project all the more attractive.

Lessons in improved forest management

Mike Warjone, a fourth-generation descendant of Port Blakely’s founders and President of US Forestry at Port Blakely, along with Senior Director of Communications, Stacey Klum, greeted us with friendly smiles. As the sun timidly peeked through the clouds on this damp fall Pacific Northwest morning, Mike, with his booming, yet warm voice began what would be a 3+ hour education on sustainable forest management. He described the challenges that Port Blakely is up against. In a competitive market that doesn’t always reward improved forestry practices, the carbon project has allowed them to grow the trees in this forest nearly three decades longer than the industry standard.

Mike first brought us to a grove of 35-year old Douglas firs. As we peered around the thick spans of trees, one thing became clear: the forest was almost entirely homogeneous, with some low-lying undergrowth. This stand is representative of the industry standard for harvesting Douglas fir. In fact, most mills are designed to process this size of tree and cannot handle the older, larger trees. What this means for companies like Port Blakely, is that the market for larger trees has significantly declined over the last decade or more, making the need for alternate revenue sources such as participating in the voluntary carbon market even more critical.

As we made our way over knotted tree roots and dense ground vegetation, Mike brought us to another, very distinct area of the forest. Standing among 60 year old trees, there was a stark difference. This section of the forest was teeming with undergrowth, a much more diverse population of tree species, and a healthy smattering of dead and decaying trees, which provide homes to many of the local fauna. It was here that Mike explained to us what carbon credits allow his organization to do. The added 25+ years of growth for the forest exponentially increases its carbon storage potential. We were looking at thousands of extra pounds of stored carbon in every one of these trees which would not have occurred without the incentive from the carbon investment, and subsequently customers like REI supporting the project.

Carbon credits’ role in immediate climate action

Making our way back toward our cars, Mike paused to instill one more important point: He and his company are more than aware that carbon credits are not the long-term solution. They are indeed an effective and immediate tool for supporting carbon reduction activities, however, they really serve as a bridge to longer term solutions. The real opportunity lies in change-making policy, in creating a meaningful and universally understood price on carbon, and working collectively to reduce greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere in the first place.

Talk about breath of fresh air. It was refreshing to see an example of companies choosing to make this type of investment, not because of its impact on the bottom line, or because of the marketing claims that can be made, but because the planet requires bold action. Port Blakely and REI exemplify the types of businesses that are helping to shape the net zero economy. It was a privilege to spend the day in the woods with these folks — companies that fully understand the challenges that lay ahead and are committed to taking action against climate change.