Thursday, 25 April 2013

Cool IT Leaderboard – disappointing progress

Greenpeace has released the latest version of its Cool IT Leaderboard, an assessment of which firms are leading efforts to address the causes of climate change. Joint leaders this time around are Cisco and Google, with a score of 58 out of 100, followed by Ericsson (51) and Fujitsu (44). At the other end of the scale, Toshiba and Hitachi, both new entrants to the list, score just 13.

 

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The idea behind the Leaderboard is that, as revealed by the SMART 2020 and SMARTer 2020 reports, the IT industry has the potential to drive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The Leaderboard examines how IT companies use their actions and influence to help address policies that will drive clean energy deployment. This is the sixth version of the Leaderboard since it was first published in 2009.

Company influence is assessed in three ways:

  • Climate solutions (40 points) – making available solutions that help phase out the use of fossil fuels and drive the changes to mitigate the impact of climate change.

  • IT energy impact (25 points) – reducing the impact of IT’s own energy use, particularly through the use of renewable energy.

  • Political advocacy (35 points)– supporting demands for the policy changes needed to drive investment in clean technology and renewable energy.

In the area of climate solutions Greenpeace reports that the industry is making progress, but the pace is not fast enough, given the urgency of the situation. Fujitsu (28 points) scored highest in this area, closely followed by Cisco and Ericsson (24) – all three companies have made progress in developing methodologies to measure IT energy savings. Six companies didn’t make double figures, with Sprint scoring just five points.

Similarly, with the rate of data centre growth, IT energy use can only be effectively addressed with a significant increase in renewable energy. Cisco led this ranking with 22 points, followed by IBM (20). There were seven companies that scored single figures, but some with signs of improvement – Softbank (7) has committed to becoming 100% powered by renewable energy.

As for political advocacy, whilst some IT companies have shown significant commitment, there has been an increase in the number that continue to support trade associations and other bodies that have lobbied against climate change policies. NTT, IBM, Toshiba, Hitachi, AT&T and NEC were given negative ‘lobbying’ points in Greenpeace’s assessment.  Google headed the ranking with 22 points, followed by Softbank and Sprint. These were the only three companies that achieved more than half of the available points.

Comparisons with previous Leaderboards are difficult because companies and criteria change – Toshiba, Hitachi and Sprint are included this time round, whilst Oracle, Sharp and TCS have been dropped. But the top four companies from the February 2012 ranking are still the top four (although in different positions) and the average score for all companies is up three points from 30.7 to 33.8 and

 

Review: These rankings from Greenpeace make a useful contribution to assessing the sustainability actions of the ICT industry, particularly since it covers some of the less tangible aspects of green IT. The details of Greenpeace’s assessments are open to scrutiny, and there is a tendency to move the goalposts, but the organisation achieves its objective of raising awareness of the issues.

ICT companies are in a position of strong influence in promoting sustainability across economies, given IT’s presence at the heart of most businesses, so real commitment should include supporting and lobbying for climate change action. It’s no longer good enough to try and please everyone all of the time. In any case, with the increasing introduction of regulation and legislation to address climate change, you would think that a commitment to the cause would set an ICT company in good stead for future business – there’s going to be a lot of it. Perhaps the problem is the pressure of quarterly reporting of US-based companies, which prevents a focus on the longer term opportunities.

© The Green IT Review

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