One-on-one with the Chairman and Founder of Infrastructure Masons Dean Nelson

InterGlobix Editor-in-Chief, Jasmine Bedi, talks with Dean Nelson, Chairman and Founder of Infrastructure Masons, about the historic announcement of the iMasons Climate Accord that unites digital infrastructure companies to tackle climate change.

For our new readers, can you give an introduction to Infrastructure Masons?

Absolutely. Infrastructure Masons was formed to unite the builders of the digital age. As a professional association, we bring our members together to connect, grow and give back across four strategic priorities. We enhance Education opportunities, champion Diversity and Inclusion, promote Innovation and Technical Excellence, and inspire Sustainability through deep member engagement. By aggregating and amplifying the incredible work of our members and partners across these strategic priorities, we compound the impact and increase industry awareness.

One of the most important efforts the iMasons community undertook was creating the digital infrastructure sustainability vision that launched on Earth Day 2020—Every Click Improves the Future. We believe that digital infrastructure should contribute to the economy and society without harming the planet. Over the past two years, our members have focused on moving towards that vision. That led to the creation of the iMasons Climate Accord.

Chez Belady discussion

Can you give us an overview of the iMasons Climate Accord?

The iMasons Climate Accord was established to unite companies in the digital infrastructure industry on measuring carbon in materials, products, and power. We are focused on shortening the timeframe to achieve carbon neutrality as a first step towards net zero.

To my knowledge, this is the largest and first-of-its-kind initiative for our industry that has united so many companies on sustainability goals and methods to achieve them. What better way to compound the work of our members and partners than to have everyone united on one program?

Martin Lynch, CEO of Pure Data Centers

How does your last InterGlobix Magazine article that defined the Digital Infrastructure industry relate to the iMasons Climate Accord announcement?

Our industry builds the digital engines that power the globe. We enable the Internet of everything. There isn’t a single part of the world where digital infrastructure isn’t present in some form. It also continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. This growth increased the visibility of our industry and with it raised a number of questions that no one could definitely answer. What is digital infrastructure? What does it include? How big is it? These questions have persisted for more than a decade.

Over the last year, I worked with Rob Aldrich, the chair of the iMasons Sustainability Committee, and other industry leaders to align on the following definitions:

Digital infrastructure is a collection of data centers that provide electronic services to people and machines. Data Centers are real estate locations that house IT equipment to process, store, and transmit data. Data centers are classified into three primary categories: Providers, Networks, and Crypto.

This classification allowed us to quantify the size of the industry and establish a starting line. In 2021 there were seven million data centers globally with over 100GW of built capacity consuming 594TWhs of energy representing 2.4 percent of global energy draw. An additional 20GW of new capacity is forecasted to be in place by the end of 2025, primarily across developing markets such as India, LATAM, and Africa.

This was a critical step for us to be able to answer the next big question in support of the iMasons Climate Accord. What is the carbon footprint of digital infrastructure?

Peter Gross, Chairman of Cato

Do we know the carbon footprint of Digital Infrastructure?

Today we do not. Measuring the carbon footprint of digital infrastructure is a much bigger challenge, as there is no standardized methodology that can quantify the embodied carbon in built capacity or the carbon intensity associated with energy consumption at these data centers. For us to establish this carbon footprint baseline, we must first must align on what we are measuring. That is why we needed to define and quantify digital infrastructure. The seven million data centers around the world have a unique real estate address, a distinct combination of materials and products within them, and individual measures of the power consumed by the data center and carbon intensity of the source energy that supplies it. That means we can model these elements at each data center location to establish the carbon footprint baseline. Then we show how the carbon footprint changes over time as these elements change.

To be clear, we are not starting from scratch. Many of the largest companies in the world have been tracking their own carbon footprints for years. Technology firms, product companies and providers in our own industry are no exception. They have established ambitious goals to achieve carbon neutrality in this decade and net zero emissions soon after. Moreover, iMasons members and their companies have not only committed to doing their part, but they have also put it into action. These focused goals and corresponding investments provide critical leadership. Each company is making good progress individually, but the sobering reality is that these independent efforts won’t move the needle fast enough.

This was the impetus for us to assemble the iMasons Advisory Council to address this challenge. If we came together as an industry, could we compound the work of these companies? Could we help shorten the timeline to reach these goals?

One of the five Chez Belady break out rooms

That sounds like a huge effort to bring people and companies together. How did you approach it?

It started with a simple phone call and a proposal. On January 2, 2022, I called Christian Belady, Vice President and Distinguished Engineer of Datacenter Advanced Development at Microsoft and one of the founding members of iMasons. I asked if we could gather industry leaders at his home to discuss how we could combine forces and tackle this challenge head-on. Christian was all in. We both felt it was important to harness the collective influence, commitment and passion of senior iMasons leaders to make meaningful progress. Secondly, we agreed to set a sense of urgency to drive action. Simon Allen, one of the iMasons Executive Directors, had suggested that we target making an announcement about this effort at the Broadgroup Data Cloud conference in Monaco in April. We knew this was an ambitious plan, but we felt that the iMasons leadership team could pull it off.

On February 22, 2022, 40 members of the iMasons Advisory Council gathered at Christian Belady’s home near Seattle, Washington to discuss what we could do as an industry to tackle climate change. This historic meeting was dubbed Chez Belady.

Dean Nelson interviews Nelson Fonseca, CEO of Cyxtera in Miami

What happened at Chez Belady?

Chez Belady included representatives of some of the largest data center infrastructure operations from around the globe, including hyperscale executives from Apple, AWS, Google, Meta, and Microsoft. The people, the setting, and the commitment and passion of the attendees to do something together were unique. It was clear to everyone there that it had the potential to become something bigger than all of us.

At the meeting, we shared the challenge that we are all facing. The impact of Climate Change is all around us. We see it manifesting in extreme weather, massive wildfires, rising sea levels, and other global catastrophes caused by increasing temperatures in every corner of the world. Our ecosystems are out of balance, and in the words of David Attenborough, time is running out. We shared that feeling as an industry and we believe that we need to take action now. We must lead by example. The digital infrastructure industry should take a leading role in achieving planetary net zero.

Every one of the companies attending had their own ESG goals and was making significant strides to meet them. Our question for them was simple. What if we could align this group on a common industry goal to tackle climate change? The result could be shorter timelines and greater impact. 1+1 could equal 10.

At Chez Belady we agreed to stay focused on finding that one thing that we could do together now. We spent six hours together at Christian’s home. Attendees broke into five groups to discuss and then report back what each group found.

Six key themes emerged:

  • We are all aligned on carbon reduction
  • We need a common carbon accounting methodology
  • We need legitimacy to speak on behalf of the industry
  • Industry collaboration will compound our impact
  • Hyperscalers drive market behavior
  • Transparency is critical

On March 17, 2022, we brought the full advisory council back together remotely to review the results and agree on the one thing we will do together. The iMasons Climate Accord was born.

Christian Belady, Vice President & Distinguished Engineer – Datacenter Advanced Development, Microsoft

What are you going to achieve in the iMasons Climate Accord?

The iMasons Sustainability vision, “Every Click Improves the Future”, is our north star. The iMasons Climate Accord is the action we take now to progress towards that vision.

The iMasons Climate Accord is a group of companies who are agreeing to an open standard and governance to report carbon in materials, products, and power across digital infrastructure and a maturity model to measure progress. The climate accord will apply standard carbon labels to products to actively measure embodied carbon over the lifetime of those products. They will also apply carbon labels to data center buildings that report the sum of embodied carbon in materials to build that building and all products housed in that data centers over its life. Finally, the accord will report the carbon intensity of source power used in those data centers. With this structure and reporting, we can enable global carbon accounting of digital infrastructure.

As I stated in my article in the last issue of InterGlobix Magazine, if you can measure it, you can improve it. Just like PUE dramatically reduced the forecasted increase of power consumption in data centers, the iMasons Climate Accord will allow all of us to see the baseline of carbon and double down on the efforts to drive to carbon neutrality.

Patricia Rodriguez Henriquez, Data Center Operations Manager Austria, Microsoft

Tell us more about how iMasons planned for the announcement of the accord at the Broadgroup Awards ceremony in Monaco.

The team was extremely excited to have aligned on a common industry goal in less than one month. We knew this effort would resonate with our members and companies in our industry.

Over the next five weeks, the team continued to refine the details and recruit companies to join the accord. The goal was to get as many to sign up as possible, before the announcement in Monaco on April 25, 2022.

We also held member working sessions in three different countries to gather input before the release—USA, Spain, and Monaco.

What did you focus on at the iMasons member meetings?

The focus was to have members from different parts of the globe double click into the iMasons Climate Accord details. We held sessions in Miami, Madrid, and Monaco.

iMasons South Florida Local Chapter Meeting in Miami

Miami Meeting

On April 19, 2022, we kicked off the iMasons South Florida Local Chapter. I had an intriguing fireside chat with Nelson Fonseca, CEO of Cyxtera, to learn about their SPAC process delivering colo and bare-metal services to their customers. Cyxtera is the founding partner for the South Florida Local Chapter and a founding member of the iMasons Climate Accord.

After the interview with Nelson, we held the working session with members to provide their perspective on the iMasons Climate Accord.

Mitch Fonseca, from Cyxtera, Santiago Suinaga from KIO Networks, and Jose Ruiz from Equinix, all of whom are iMasons Foundation Partners and participated in Chez Belady, helped provide context to drive the conversations. The feedback from the group was great and helped in the messaging and planning for announcing the accord.

We also ended the event with a food for thought dinner sponsored by Tate to raise money for our scholarship fund. Thank you, Daniel Kennedy, for the generous donation. The iMasons Climate Accord discussion extended through the dinner, with multiple companies signing up that evening.

iMasons / SPAINDC Local Chapter Meeting in Madrid, Spain

Madrid Meeting

After the Miami meeting, Jeff Omelchuck and I flew to Madrid, Spain to attend the iMasons local chapter meeting hosted by SPAINDC.

Simon Allen and Rachell Robson met us there to help coordinate the working session. The meeting was led by Patricia Rodriguez Hernandez, DC Manager at Microsoft, founding member and General Secretary of SPAINDC, and long-time iMasons member and champion. We had great attendance at the event. After hearing the introduction to the iMasons Climate Accord we had the groups break out and provide feedback. We had excellent input that provided additional considerations for Spain and the EU.

After an amazing meeting in Madrid, we flew to Monaco to prepare for the in-person iMasons Advisory Council session, members’ meeting, and the Climate Accord announcement.

Dean Nelson with Patricia Rodriguez Henriquez

Monaco Meeting

Our Monaco member meeting was amazing. I started with a fireside chat with our newest iMasons Luminary, Chris Malone. He was inducted into the iMasons Hall of Fame after the iMasons Climate Accord announcement. Chris has been involved in efficiency programs at scale for over 25 years. First at Hewlett Packard, then Google, and now Meta.

After the talk with Chris, we had the group dive into the iMasons Climate Accord. It was a great session with very relevant feedback.

Our Advisory Council meeting focused on the next steps of the iMasons Climate Accord structure, governance, and outcomes that will help guide the different workgroups. Many of the Chez Belady attendees participated in the Monaco session.

April 2022, Monaco: Dean Nelson interviewing Chris Malone from Meta at iMasons members meeting
April 2022, Monaco: iMasons Members Meeting
April 2022, Monaco: Broadgroup award winners and iMasons Climate Accord Members

Can you share more about the launch of the iMasons Climate Accord?

At Chez Belady we were focused on taking action. On April 25, 2022, Christian Belady and I took the stage at the Broadgroup Awards in Monaco to announce the iMasons Climate Accord. We were proud to announce that 73 companies had joined the iMasons Climate Accord in less than six weeks. This included some of the largest digital infrastructure portfolios in the world.

The founding members of the iMasons Climate Accord include hyperscalers AWS, Google, Meta, and Microsoft along with 35 Colocation companies, 14 product companies, 13 service providers, 3 software companies, 2 power utilities, and 2 finance firms.

The accord members are committed to working together to shorten the timeline to achieve carbon neutrality as a first step toward net zero.

We were all happy to be back together again, but conferences like this have a sizable carbon footprint associated with attendance. Flights, Ubers, meals, etc. To stay true to the iMasons Sustainability vision, we decided to start a trend aligned with the iMasons Climate Accord.

Pure Data Centers, one of iMasons long-standing foundation partners, purchased certified carbon offsets for all 500 of the attendees at the Broadgroup Awards. Their flights, hotels, Ubers, taxis, and meals have all been offset. It is the first carbon-free conference for our industry. Thank you, Pure Data Centers, and especially Martin Lynch, for your passion for sustainability and for making this happen.

June 2022, Santa Clara, CA: iMasons Advisory Council Working Session

How many companies are in the iMasons Climate Accord now?

As of the publication of this edition of Interglobix Magazine, the iMasons Climate Accord member companies have more than doubled to 161 since the announcement in Monaco.

The iMasons Climate Accord is uniting the builders of the digital age to tackle climate change. The program has resonated with members and companies all around the world and continues to gather momentum. We expect that number to continue to increase.

June 2022, Santa Clara, CA: Noah Goldstein ICA Governing Body member representing Google

What’s next for the iMasons Climate Accord?

The detailed work has already begun. The iMasons Climate Accord is a program operating under the iMasons umbrella. It is led by a Governing Body that has full autonomy in decision-making for the program, with compliance oversight by the iMasons board.

On June 7, 2022, the ICA Governing Body met for the first time in Santa Clara, CA to align on the next steps in conjunction with the iMasons Advisory Council meeting and iMasons members meeting. The kickoff included defining the governing body structure, charter, and budget, identifying voting members, and defining the expected outcomes that will be given to the different working groups.

The ICA Governing Body is made up of nine members. The first five seats are assigned to representatives from AWS, Google, Meta, Microsoft, and iMasons for the duration of the program. Christian Belady, Joe Kava, Rachel Peterson, and Eric Wilcox appointed their company representatives to serve on the Governing Body and I am serving on behalf of iMasons. The remaining four seats have two-year terms.

At the Governing Body session we reviewed the first draft of the expected outcomes from the ICA. Immediately following that session we held working sessions with the iMasons Advisory Council and the iMasons members meeting in Santa Clara, CA to gather feedback.

These sessions were incredibly valuable. The participants were engaged and excited about working together. The feedback we received was immediately incorporated into the ICA for 2022 planning.

April 2022, Monaco: iMasons Advisory Council Meeting

How can companies join the Governing Body?

Companies will be able to apply for the four additional seats starting in July 2022. The expectation is that two of the four seats will be filled in 2022 and two in 2023. The staggered start dates will help with continuity of the governing body as terms end. Applications will be reviewed in a blind vote by the iMasons Advisory Council members. The results will be provided to the Governing Body for the final selection of the four seats. The application process can be found at:

June 2022, Santa Clara, CA: iMasons Member Summit

How can companies or individuals get involved in the iMasons Climate Accord?

The members of the iMasons Climate Accord have pledged to reduce carbon in materials, products, and power by applying carbon labels to products and data centers and measuring the carbon intensity of source energy consumed by these locations. We also agreed to create a maturity model to enable participants to track progress regardless of what stage of the journey they are on.

The Governing Body is finalizing clear outcomes with time-boxed periods to complete the work. These will be assigned to working groups. Individuals and member companies will be able to lead and/or participate in these workgroups to drive the outcomes. Workgroups will present their proposals back to the Governing Body for approval. The objective is to create an environment for companies to work together to drive industry alignment and results. The iMasons Climate Accord will reward participation. Those in the room will drive the outcome. We encourage individuals and companies to assign resources to join the work effort and drive the best results.

All efforts, large or small, will help move us closer to the goal of accelerating the time to achieve carbon neutrality as the first step towards net zero emissions for the digital infrastructure industry.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I am confident that our members are up for it. We have an incredible industry with passionate people who care. Together we can move the needle on climate change.

For more information on the iMasons Climate Accord and how to join, visit