Friday, 29 May 2009

Greenpeace Cool IT challenge results

Greenpeace has launched its Cool IT Challenge, which scores IT companies on the extent to which they are helping to tackle climate change.

I like the way Greenpeace is doing this, because it acknowledges that IT companies have an important role to play in helping the whole economy reduce emissions. (Greenpeace says IT can help cut greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2020, but I would argue that the figure could be a lot higher). Anyway,IT companies are judged in three areas:

- 50% of the score measures the extent to which they are providing climate solutions to other parts of the economy, such as smarter transport, building energy efficiency and smart grids. It is certainly true that some companies have been slow in putting forward solutions, waiting for the market to come to them. I've made the point in previous blogs.

- 35% is down to the extent to which IT companies are advocating and lobbying for a strong global climate deal to be brokered at the UN negotiations in Copenhagen at the end of the year. I agree with the sentiment, but wouldn't restrict it to lobbying at Copenhagen. Regular readers will know I would like to see IT companies make their views known around specific country legislation that could have a positive or negative impact on emissions.

- 15% measures how much companies are reducing their own carbon footprints, including using renewable energy. Again, I agree. Much has already been done in this area, generating lots of PR - the focus is now elsewhere.

(The assessment leaves out one other aspect, i.e. product-related emissions, but Greenpeace does cover this in its quarterly 'Guide to Greener Electronics' rankings).

So whilst the assessment looks good, the actual scores for the first round do not reflect well on the industry. Only eight companies scored in double figures (out of a possible score of 100), led by IBM, Sun, Dell and Cisco. The full details of the survey and scores are here. The next assessment is due in August/September.

I'm in two minds about this. I applaud the scoring criteria, but the low scores suggest an industry that doesn't care, which is far from the case, at least among the major players. They do have to walk a fine line between promoting green solutions and doing business, and I think most would say that there is limited 'pure' green business out there. On the other hand, having an established market position will be paramount when the sector does mature, so those that lead are very likely to reap the benefits in the long term.

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