Google takes top spot in Greenpeace Cool IT Leaderboard

8 Feb 2012

The fifth edition of the Greenpeace Cool IT Leaderboard

Greenpeace has today released its latest Cool IT Leaderboard that pitches IT giants against each other for how they are using their IT prowess to tackle climate change and influence the push toward clean-energy solutions. Google has come out on top for its clean energy leadership, followed by Cisco and Ericsson. In all, Greenpeace ranked 21 IT firms for how they are embracing clean-energy leadership and their potential to influence energy decisions.

The Cool IT Leaderboard was released today in New Delhi, India.

So why did Google take the top spot? Google aced the table for its support of stronger US clean-energy policy and the strengthening of the EU’s current 20pc greenhouse gas target of 30pc by 2020, said Greenpeace today.

However, Japanese telecommunications company Softbank achieved the leaderboard’s highest political advocacy score ever for its post-Fukushima nuclear disaster demand for a “rapid shift” towards renewable energy and away from nuclear power, Greenpeace confirmed.

Greenpeace said Google, Cisco, and Dell all stand out for sourcing more than 20pc renewable energy globally for each company’s infrastructures. 

Oracle received the lowest ranking overall due to failing to disclose either renewable or dirty energy use.

Interestingly, Apple and Facebook were not included in this year’s leaderboard. Greenpeace said Apple was not included because its efforts do not meet the leaderboard criteria.

Greenpeace said Apple “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 not included in the previous leaderboard for similar reasons, said Greenpeace. Back in December Greenpeace ended its ‘Unfriend Coal’ attack on Facebook, with the duo instead declaring their mission to launch a clean-energy drive. Greenpeace said today that Facebook had recently changed its policies and committed to a “renewably powered Facebook”, announcing its partnership with Opower to use the Facebook platform to help its users compare their energy usage. 

Six telecommunications companies were added since the last leaderboard. These were: AT&T, Telefónica, Vodafone, Softbank, Alcatel-Lucent, and NTT.

Major IT software and equipment brands from India and Japan – HCL, TCS and NEC – were also included in the Greenpeace evaluation.


Greenpeace IT Leaderboard Summary Table

Greenpeace Cool IT Leaderboard (5th edition) Summary Table. Image courtesy of Greenpeace. Click here for more information

Is the IT sector keeping too quiet on dirty data?

“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.”

According to Greenpeace, the rapid expansion of global telecom infrastructure and data centres that power the cloud is driving significant energy demand in many sectors, much of it from dirty sources, such as coal and diesel. 

The energy used to power data centres, such as those operated by Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, IBM and other major IT companies that deliver online services, comprises more than 2pc of US electricity demand, and is projected to grow 12pc or more per year. 

Dropoff in advocacy leadership

And while the Greenpeace ranking found a steady increase in the quantity and strength of renewable energy solutions from many companies such as Cisco, IBM, Ericsson and Fujitsu, it also found a significant dropoff in policy advocacy leadership by IT companies.

“The IT industry must use its influence, innovative spirit and technological know-how to overcome the dirty energy companies who are holding onto the status quo, and holding us back from a transition to a renewable energy economy,” said Cook. “What we’re seeing is a lot of talk from companies about moving toward clean energy, but so far, not much of action.”

In April, Greenpeace will bring out its second How Dirty is Your Data report, which will look at the impact of the sector’s rapidly growing infrastructure. Facebook and Apple will be included in that report, Greenpeace has confirmed.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic