Just two days after Earth Day, environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace unveiled its sixth Cool IT Leaderboard. The leaderboard evaluates companies based on their efforts to reduce climate change both within their own power and by using their influence to advocate for clean energy like solar, wind and more. This year Cicso tied Google for first place with both companies scoring 58 out of 100 points in the leaderboard’s scoring criteria.
It’s a move back up on the leaderboard for Cicso, which had been in first place until 2012 when Google jumped from fourth to first. Overall, the leaderboard ranks 21 of the world’s leading IT companies and has three new entrants, Sprint, with 43 points, took the fifth spot on the list, while Toshiba and Hitachi tied for 20th place, each with 13 points.
Greenpeace spokesperson David Pomerantz explains the reason for the rankings thusly: “Can the same people who brought us search engines, Internet-powered smart phones, and the cloud also help us save the planet from climate change?” As such it evaluates technology companies, including software service providers and computer manufacturers in three categories with a possible 100 points available. They are, economy-wide technological climate solutions (40 points), political advocacy and support for science-based climate and energy policies (35 points) and reduction of their own global warming emissions (25 points).
Google, which late last week announced its plans to pursue creating renewable energy tariffs as new a class of energy service, may have scored higher in Greenpeace’s advocacy metrics if they were included in the report. “While it wasn’t released in time to be included in this report, Google’s announcement that it would push utilities to deliver more renewable energy to large customers, a practice that will start with Duke Energy in North Carolina could be a potential breakthrough; Duke’s current energy mix is powered by only 0.2 percent renewable energy in the Carolinas, a stark contrast to Google’s goal of being 100 percent renewably powered.” Pomerantz writes.
Still, Google’s efforts were enough to garner the shared top spot. In Greenpeace’s report it observes, “Google’s continued advocacy for clean energy and willingness to put its money where its mouth is helps keep it atop the CooI IT Leaderboard for the second year in a row.…Google’s clean energy investments, now topping $1 billion US dollars since 2010, illustrate that corporations can play an important role in providing a new and much needed source of capital to the renewable energy sector.” Greenpeace also points out where Google has room to improve. “It has made only modest progress in demonstrating how its products and services can help save energy or reduce greenhouse gases for its customers.”
Cisco, which was atop the list until Google toppled it last year, gained nine points to tie Google. “Cisco’s leadership improved across each of the three evaluation areas, particularly for updated commitments to manage its energy footprint and increase the amount of renewable energy powering its operations,” Greenpeace says.
The report takes note of Cisco’s efforts to measure and show how IT can save energy. The IT company, which supports virtual meetings and remote computer access to support remote workplaces, for instance is also showing interest in smart grid services. “Cisco earns top marks for its increased leadership in addressing its growing energy footprint, with an update to its greenhouse gas (GHG) and renewable energy targets, along with a performance-based commitment to direct its growth toward cleaner sources of electricity and away from coal,” Greenpeace explains.
Noticeably absent from the list were two tech giants, Apple and Facebook. That’s despite Greenpeace singling out Apple last month for its commitment to source 100 percent of the power for its datacenters with renewable energy. However, the company has been famously secretive—particularly under former CEO Steve Jobs—and while it’s made that commitment, the company hasn’t publicly acknowledged any pursuit of political advocacy or pushed for climate solutions beyond their own doors, so to speak.
Pomerantz singles out Facebook for its recent announcement that its next datacenter will be in Iowa, which has a lot of wind power, but acknowledges, “We haven’t evaluated Facebook in our Cool IT Leaderboards, since it’s not yet offering services that can directly help us use our energy smarter and cleaner.”
One of the biggest areas where IT companies can play a bigger role in the drive to clean energy, according to Greenpeace, is in demanding policy changes to support solar, wind and other clean technologies, and to push monopolistic electric utilities, like Duke Energy and TEPCO in Japan to adopt more clean energy. “There are promising signs. Wipro, Google, Sprint and SoftBank have prioritized changing the laws and policies governing our energy system, working to break down utility monopolies and incentivising investment in advanced energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy,” Greenpeace says, adding that it will continue to monitor IT companies’ advocacy leadership throughout 2013.
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