Big Tech’s supply chains remain reliant on fossil fuels, Greenpeace says

7 Nov 2022

Image: © Danicek/

As COP27 kicks off, a Greenpeace study found that emissions continue to rise from tech companies’ major suppliers.

Tech giants such as Microsoft and Google have pledged to use 100pc renewable energy in their own operations, but their supply chains are still reliant on fossil fuels.

This is according to a report by environmental organisations Greenpeace East Asia and Stand Earth. Researchers ranked the decarbonisation efforts by 10 of the world’s top consumer electronics brands and 14 of their largest suppliers.

The report claims that only four of these major suppliers reported a renewable energy usage rate that exceeded 10pc. Last year, the median renewable energy usage rate for all 14 suppliers was 5pc.

The researchers noted that tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft have hit 100pc renewable energy across their own operations. But two of their biggest semiconductor manufacturers, TSMC and SK Hynix, reported renewable energy usage rates of only 9pc and 4pc, respectively

The report also found that the emissions from key semiconductor manufacturers are on the rise. Emissions have increased from Samsung Electronics, TSMC, Intel and SK Hynix since 2019. These are four of the world’s top semiconductor manufacturers by revenue, with Big Tech clients such as Apple, Microsoft and Google.

“Brands like Microsoft and Google talk a lot about climate action, but in reality their supply chain carbon footprint has continued to grow,” said Greenpeace East Asia campaigner Xueying Wu.

“Consumer electronics brands must provide incentives and support for their suppliers to transition to renewable energy.”

The report said Apple is the only major tech company that has issued a 100pc renewable energy target for its supply chain and has “made significant progress toward this goal”. However, Apple has not disclosed detailed energy and emissions data regarding its supply chain.

The researchers said Microsoft, meanwhile, is “backsliding” on its supply chain emissions targets. In 2020, the tech giant pledged to become carbon negative by 2030, however the report said that Microsoft’s supply chain emissions increased by 23pc in 2021.

The report said Big Tech brands need to achieve “full supply chain transparency” to ensure there is accountability, oversight and understanding of where energy is consumed across their supply chains.

“Consumer electronics brands should require their suppliers to set renewable energy and emissions reductions targets and create incentives to ensure that these goals are met,” said Stand Earth global climate campaign director Gary Cook. “Suppliers must select high-impact renewable energy sourcing methods to meet their targets.”

Yesterday (6 November), world leaders began to assemble for COP27, the United Nations climate conference in Egypt.

Before last year’s Glasgow talks, experts warned that the summit was the world’s last chance to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century. However, a UN report last week found even if all nations meet their climate goals this decade, the planet would still heat by 2.5 degrees Celsius.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic