We would like you to meet the people behind NBCC who contribute their knowledge and experience to make our chamber even better. Please meet Rob Elder, a council member and one of the people we rely on to help us achieve this.
Please tell us about yourself – include only what you’re comfortable with and please keep it brief; name, title, company, experience/education, countries lived in (how long and why), interests/hobbies.
I’m Rob Elder, Vice President Data Centers at Bulk Infrastructure. I’ve been at Bulk just over three years and worked in the sector for close to 20 years, in various roles from working for contractors and consultants, and now working for a data centre operator in the Nordics.
I live in the UK (south of London), I’m married with two children, which means a lot of my time is spent as a taxi driver for my kids! I also coach my daughter’s football team. Hobbies? In the last couple of years, I’ve started doing triathlons – or trying to, anyway. I don’t do triathlons because I work for a Norwegian company, although the Norwegians are the best at triathlons so I’m in good company there.
I wanted to ask, since you work for a data centre are you one of those who are interested in computer games?
No, I’m not really into that sort of thing, I used to be when I was younger, but I leave that to the kids now.
Why and how did you get involved with NBCC?
Our focus is on international companies. Being based in London, and with a good many of these companies based in the UK, the NBCC provided an excellent forum for Bulk to educate the UK business community about the benefits of the Nordics sustainable digital infrastructure and data centres.
It’s also a great way to better understand the relationship between the UK and Norway, and to expand our network with other Norwegian companies, Team Norway and other established groups and institutions – all working to improve and expand the relationship between the UK and Norway.
What advantages can NBCC offer as a facilitator of trade between the UK and Norway?
The NBCC offers a lot of different ways for companies to increase their profile. Whether you’re a new company entering the market, looking to raise your visibility and to be introduced to people, or you’re a much larger business, I think there are different opportunities to do that through the events, networking forums and introductions.
You meet other like-minded companies as well as potential customers and build partnerships and new business relationships. With Team Norway’s involvement, it brings other parts of that theme to support companies looking to sell their services or increase their own business. So, it’s not just the NBCC, but working with partners to help build that network or helping us as an organisation and others build that network, that in turn will increase our opportunities for business and trade.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between Norway and the UK going forward? What could need improvement?
There are already close ties between Norway and the UK – there’s a long history of that. From the business side of things there’s a lot of collaboration on energy, especially with energy security becoming such an important global topic.
Working in a digital infrastructure space, my hope is that Norway and the UK can find more ways to work together on digital services, security and data.
Although this is part of our trade agreement, in the context of the energy situation it doesn’t get that much focus. This includes the UK utilising Norway for data processing and storage because Norway’s low-cost 100% low-carbon power will solve some of the issues the UK has for power capacity and in lowering carbon emissions. It’s a good opportunity for us to work more closely together.
Key for me is to reinforce the existing ties and look to how we could also strengthen other areas of trade and collaboration.
Which factors, in your opinion, are important to pay attention to during the coming years in terms of global cooperation?
One of the reasons I wanted to work for Bulk, is that the company vision is to help solve global issues in relation to climate. But I think with the current challenges since the start of Covid, and now the war in Ukraine and the subsequent energy and financial crisis, it seems that the attention and focus is not on climate change. So, global cooperation here is about the long-term risks that our planet is facing in solving the climate change issue, and what Bulk is focusing on is opening up places like Norway and also Canada, for housing the increase in digital infrastructure requirements for the processing and storage of data.
This requires greater collaboration across everything from fibre connectivity and fibre systems to data sovereignty and security, and a willingness to cooperate across borders. Obviously, there are lots of areas that help address the issue of climate crisis, but my point is, not to lose focus, and that’s our corporate objective – to find solutions to some of these issues.
Today people are focusing on reducing their energy consumption, largely due to the fact that it’s costing a fortune. But it’s also making people more aware of things they can do to reduce energy consumption – that’s a good thing. At our level though, this is something that’s also going to require greater collaboration between countries and institutions to enable things like processing data in regions which help to reduce the impact on the environment.
How important are ESG credentials to your team?
Bulk’s objective is to provide sustainable digital infrastructure out of the Nordics. We offer organisations a way to lower their carbon footprint by utilising the fantastic resources available in the Nordics for data processing and storage. But we go beyond that. Being a Nordic company, the social governance side of how we work is part of the culture and the way conduct ourselves, we focus on that.
Sustainability is a fundamental part of our vision, and it underpins everything we do. As part of this focus, we measure the carbon footprint of our activities and have established a budget and action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In terms of building and operating our data centres and real estate buildings, we measure all elements of our carbon emissions, and in our solutions, we are looking at ways in which we can reduce things which have a bigger carbon impact. For example, we are now designing our standard warehousing using sustainably sourced wood rather than steel, and we will look to incorporate that into our data centre construction projects where applicable.
We have made significant progress both with respect to heat re-use at our data centres, and solar energy solutions to ensure a renewable energy supply for the buildings we develop. We are putting solar panels on all our industrial buildings and where we see there is that possibility in data centres, we do the same. Data centres consume lots of power, but they also generate a lot of heat so in all our data centres we now have the ability to provide heat to adjacent properties. In Oslo we’re doing that to adjacent office buildings, in Denmark we’re doing that with the local district heating, and at our site in Kristiansand, Norway, we’re looking to develop warehousing for food production, greenhouses, and other similar local initiatives.
Bulk’s sustainability framework consists of three perspectives: location, asset, and ecosystem. So, everything from where we are located but also to how we are building and operating our sites, we’re looking at where we can incorporate solutions which further improve our ESG.
Finally, we are accounting for ESG and reporting on it through annual carbon reports (for carbon emissions) and have set targets and actions to mitigate our carbon footprint.
It has been a pleasure talking with you Rob, and thank you for giving our members and followers a chance to get to know you better!