Business & Technology

Fortinet’s Progress on Sustainable Product Innovation

By Fortinet | September 29, 2022

A Q&A with Fortinet’s Michael Xie, Co-founder & CTO, and Barbara Maigret, Fortinet’s Global Head of Sustainability and CSR

Environmental considerations such as climate change, resource scarcity, and the energy crisis are a top priority for the future of our planet. Addressing these issues is everyone’s responsibility, and Fortinet is committed to doing our part. As a global cybersecurity leader, we believe we are responsible for respecting the planet and contributing to efforts to curtail climate change. It shows in our product innovation and manufacturing standards, the eco-footprint of our facilities, and our support of eco policies and regulations. Environmental sustainability is an important issue to us as shown in our published 2021 Sustainability Report.

Fortinet recently spoke with Michael Xie, Co-founder and CTO at Fortinet and Barbara Maigret, Fortinet’s Global Head of Sustainability and CSR, to talk about the efforts Fortinet is making from product environmental impacts.

How is Fortinet making its products and solutions more sustainable?

Michael Xie: On average, nearly 40% of an organization's energy consumption is spent on cooling its data centers and IT equipment, comprising around 1.5% of total energy consumption. A key priority for Fortinet is to not only continually improve the performance of our products, but also to look at how we can reduce power consumption, address cooling requirements, and decrease the physical size of our products. These efforts not only make us more competitive but also help our customers save on energy, space, and cooling to help reduce global energy demand.

We begin with our strength. Fortinet’s position as a global cybersecurity leader is largely due to our culture of innovation. Our more than 1,500 patents are far greater than those of our next several competitors combined. We have leveraged that innovation to not just develop effective security solutions, but ones that also address eco requirements. For example, our ability to consolidate multiple security technologies into a single appliance and have it powered by the industry’s only custom-designed security processors (Fortinet ASICs), means that customers benefit from strong security performance in a much smaller footprint. Replacing multiple standalone solutions with a single platform saves space - one appliance deployed instead of several; energy - energy consumption of one appliance instead of several; and cooling - one device to cool instead of several. 

"Fortinet is committed to meeting or exceeding all applicable environmental laws and regulations related to protecting human health and the environment."

We also ensure that each generation of Fortinet products consumes less energy. For example, our latest FortiGate F Series appliances have reduced their carbon footprint by over 60% compared to previous generations. Our devices also use much less energy to generate 1G of firewall throughput than competitive solutions. The FortiGate 3400E consumes 3x less than the industry average (3 watts vs. 10 watts), the FortiGate 4200F consumes 7x less than the industry average (2 watts vs. 15 watts), and our FortiGate 600E consumes12x less than the industry average (7 watts vs. 88 watts).

Additionally, we have reduced the size of our FortiGate 4200F and FortiGate 4400F appliances by 33% compared to the previous generation. And the heat generated per 1Gpbs of firewall throughput on our latest F series appliances is, on average, 48% lower than the previous generation E series. These innovations not only reduce the space required to host a product at a customer site and the energy required to cool it but also positively impact transportation overhead by reducing shipping weight and volume.

Packaging is another issue having a severe impact on the environment. Our landfills and even recycling centers are filled with discarded packaging and technology. How is Fortinet’s product packaging more sustainable?

Michael Xie: Product packaging immediately becomes waste once a product is received at a customer site. Last year, Fortinet began looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of product packaging. We have started using biodegradable packaging for our first-tier product models. We have replaced plastics with biodegradable paper, cardboard, or recycled by-products. We have also designed specific compartments in our packaging to reduce or eliminate additional plastics bag for things like antennas and other accessories. Since implementing this program, we estimate that nearly 430,000 boxes have been manufactured using this new eco-friendly (no-plastic) packaging.

In 2022 we began addressing packaging for our second-tier products. We now use 100% bio-degradable packaging for the estimated 1.5M+ packaging boxes - which is equivalent to 150+ tons in weight - shipped annually for our FortiGate 40F/60F/70F appliances.

How is Fortinet working to meet environmental product compliance?

Barbara Maigret: Fortinet is committed to meeting or exceeding all applicable environmental laws and regulations related to protecting human health and the environment. As a vendor of hardware security appliances, it is our responsibility to minimize the impacts of our products in terms of the materials we use and of waste management.

We support many environmental directives relative to materials. The main ones are:

  • EU RoHS which relates to the Restriction of use of certain Hazardous Substances: all our products fully comply with this mandatory CE marking directive and its amendments.­
  • EU REACH Regulation which refers to Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and restriction of Chemicals: all of Fortinet’s products comply with the applicable articles, including the one on SVHC – Substances of Very High Concern.
  • US SEC Conflict Minerals Rule: in line with our policy on conflict minerals, Fortinet reports annually on smelters and Conflict Minerals in its supply chain.
  • EU Packaging directive: these regulatory restrictions focus on the total concentration of heavy metals in packaging. All our packaging materials comply with this directive.

From a waste management standpoint, we support:

  • Waste Framework Directive (WFD):  this directive comes from the European Commission and relates to waste prevention and recycling. To comply, Fortinet submits product data to the database of hazardous substances known as SCIP (Substances of Concern In articles as such or in complex objects (Products)) established under the directive.
  • WEEE (Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment): Fortinet complies with this directive by facilitating the proper disposal and recycling of its appliances in an environmentally friendly way according to local laws and regulations. We also collaborate with our distributors and suppliers for an equal commitment to environmental and social responsibilities. Our distributors and resellers worldwide are required to perform WEEE-compliant collection, shipment, and processing of disposed of products at no charge to the user. 

What is Fortinet’s circularity approach?

Barbara Maigret: Across all sectors, we see a push for circularity and defining lifecycle strategies where a product is created with its end-of-life in mind. In a circular economy, once a user is finished with a product, it goes back into the supply chain rather than a landfill to reduce its environmental impact. Companies start by embracing operating principles to reduce, reuse, recycle, and remove materials to minimize waste and accelerate the adoption of sustainable business processes.

At Fortinet we are currently analyzing our product lifecycle in order to integrate circular economy principles at every stage, from design where we carefully select the materials we use, choosing recycled and renewable resources where possible to use and end of life, where the objective is to make them easier to be repaired or reconditioned to extend their lifespan. 

To that end, we invite all of our customers to contact their Fortinet distributors and resellers to collect their retired or unused Fortinet products for refurbishment and responsible recycling at no charge. 

Learn more about Fortinet’s Corporate Social Responsibility vision and approach.