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February 09, 2012
Google Tops Greenpeace International's Cool IT Leaderboard
    by Robert Kropp

The Internet giant is cited in Greenpeace's fifth ranking of information technology companies for its commitment to renewable energy and its public advocacy for clean energy policies.

What a difference a little transparency makes.

In last year's Cool IT Leaderboard ranking of information technology companies by Greenpeace International, Google "scored a big fat F for transparency," wrote Tom Dowdall of Greenpeace.

This year, Google ranked first in the fifth edition of the Leaderboard, thanks in large part to its disclosure of energy usage in September. While Google generated almost 1.5 million metric tons of carbon emissions in 2010, and its data centers consume 260 million watts of electricity on a continuous basis, the company describes its operations as carbon neutral since 2007, because of its purchase of carbon offsets.

This year's Leaderboard cited Google, along with Cisco and Dell, for sourcing more than 20% of their infrastructure requirements from renewable energy sources. "Cisco, Ericsson, and Fujitsu," Greenpeace stated, "Stand out once again in the solutions criteria for providing detailed case studies of how their unique technology is creating pathways towards significant emission reductions."

It may appear counter-intuitive that IT companies could play such an important role in global emissions reduction; after all, power producers themselves are responsible for the majority of emissions, through the use of such high-emitting sources as coal and oil. However, the energy demands of the IT sector are rapidly increasing, as global telecom infrastructures and data centers powering cloud computing expand.

Also, information technology is crucial for companies in other sectors in their efforts to measure and manage their emissions reduction strategies. Public advocacy is therefore an important factor in the Leaderboard's ranking of IT companies, and Greenpeace awarded Google with a high grade in this area for its support of clean energy policies in the US.

"Technology giants have a real opportunity to use their power and influence to change how we produce and use energy - Google tops the table because it's putting its money where its mouth is by pumping investment into renewable energy," said Greenpeace International IT analyst Gary Cook. "The IT sector might like to consider itself forward-thinking, but it is keeping far too quiet while the dirty energy industry continues to exert undue influence on both the political process and financial markets."

Overall, Greenpeace "found a significant drop-off in policy advocacy leadership by IT companies" in this year's rankings. However, the organization did award Softbank, a Japanese telecommunications company, with its highest political advocacy score ever. Softbank was cited for demanding a rapid shift away from nuclear power and toward renewable energy in the aftermath of last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Following Google in the Leaderboard's top five were Cisco, Ericsson, Fujitsu, and Vodafone.

Two major US-based IT companies were not included in this year's Leaderboard. Apple, Greenpeace stated, "has not demonstrated leadership or elected to pursue market opportunities to drive IT energy solutions that many of its competitors have, despite record profits and large cash reserves."

Facebook was excluded this year as well; however, the company recently agreed to adopt a siting policy for its data centers that will give preference to clean and renewable energy supplies. As a result, Greenpeace ended its Unfriend Coal campaign targeting Facebook, and will include the company in next year's Leaderboard rankings.


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