Greenpeace: IT companies weak on climate change

Environmental watchdog Greenpeace takes big IT companies to task for talking about 'green IT' but not developing enough energy-saving products or lobbying around climate change.
Written by Martin LaMonica, Contributor

Having issued a middling report card to consumer electronics companies earlier this year, environmental watchdog Greenpeace is now targeting big IT companies which it says are not pulling their weight when it comes to tackling climate change.

With its Cool IT Challenge, Greenpeace on Wednesday created a scorecard for the CEOs of the largest IT companies that shows how they rate on climate leadership. Overall, Greenpeace doesn't look on them kindly.

It gives IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano relatively high marks for disclosing the company's emissions reduction targets and spearheading its "Smarter Planet" initiative to make transportation and the utility industry more efficient through IT. Toshiba scored only 2 out of 100 because it needs to improve its emissions reductions and use of renewable energy, according to Greenpeace.

Greenpeace has kind words for Sun Microsystems for developing energy-efficient servers and undertaking a company-wide sustainable program.

Overall, Greenpeace argues that these powerful business people should be taking a more active role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, both in their own operations and by lobbying politicians.

"The majority of IT companies talk big about 'going green' rather than giving tangible evidence of how their software and hardware solutions actually reduce emissions. These companies must show case studies of climate savings based on sound metrics in areas such as smarter transport, building energy efficiency and smart grids," Greenpeace International campaigner Casey Harrell said in a statement.

It is estimated that data centers consume about 2 percent of the energy use in the world, making IT one of the most energy-intensive industries.

Some IT executives talk about the "other 98 percent," referring to the many ways that IT can be used to improve the state of the environment.

The most obvious area of crossover into energy is smart-grid technologies, where a combination of computing and communications gear are expected to play a major role in upgrading the power grid. Some large companies, including IBM, Google, and Intel, have initiatives or spin-out companies focused directly on solar.

Greenpeace's tough talk on IT companies mirrors the pressure it seeks to apply on consumer electronics firms. It does a regular report grading how well consumer electronics companies do on reducing toxic chemicals in products and, starting this year, activities around energy use and climate change.

This article was first published as a blog post on CNET News.

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