Microsoft Joins the Great Tech Carbon Telethon

Today is Red Nose Day in the UK, a day when you are supposed to do something 'funny for money'. People in offices all over the UK will don a plastic red nose and raise money to provide financial relief for Africa.
Written by James Farrar, Contributor

Today is Red Nose Day in the UK, a day when you are supposed to do something 'funny for money'. People in offices all over the UK will don a plastic red nose and raise money to provide financial relief for Africa. Tonight the BBC will run a telethon and people can call in and pledge money with wild abandon. Pledge now over a bottle of wine. Pay later. Maybe. Hopefully.

Slightly less bombastic I know, but for the past few months the rate at which tech companies have been phoning in their long range carbon reduction pledges has accelarated. This week Micorsoft joined the fray. I'll forego the over sized thermometer this time but thought it worth while to summarize for you, dear reader, the current situation amongst some of the majors.

  • IBM: Reduce CO2 emissions associated with energy burn by 12% from 2005 baseline by 2012. Reduce PFC emissions by 25% from 1990 baseline by 2010.
  • Oracle: Reduce US emissions by 6% per square foot for all non data centre space from 2003 baseline by 2010. Also to purchase 5% green power for data centres.
  • Apple: Believe 95% of its greenhouse gas emissions footprint relate to the production, transport, use and recycling of their product and this is where their focus is for performance. No pledge for improvement. Data for operations and by product is provided.  
  • Microsoft: Reduce CO2 emissions by 30% per unit of revenue from 2007 baseline by 2012.
  • Intel: Reduce all green house gas emissions by 30% per unit of production 2004 baseline by 2010.
  • Cisco Systems: Reduce all green house gas emissions by 25% from 2007 baseline by 2012. This includes indirect emissions from the purchase of air travel.
  • SAP: Reduce all green house gasses by 51% from 2007 baseline by 2020. This also includes indirect emissions from the purchase of air travel. (see my disclosure)
  • HP: Reduce energy consumption from HP direct operations and from the use of HP products by 25% from 2005 baseline by 2010. This breaks down for the period as a 16% absolute cut in energy consumption at HP facilities, a 30% improvement in energy efficiency for printers sold, a 50% improvement in energy efficiency for servers sold and reduce energy consumption of note books sold by 25%.
  • Autodesk: is working towards setting a goal some time in the future. Is publicly reporting its current footprint.
  • Dell: Reduce CO2 emissions by 15% per unit of revenue from the 2007 baseline by 2012.
  • Google: Committed to becoming carbon neutral. Google don't say by when and do not publicly disclose their CO2.
  • Symantec: Reduce CO2 emissions by 15% from the 2008 baseline by 2012, to be measured by unit of CO2 per square foot. (I don't get this one either, is it an absolute reduction or a reduction per square foot?)
  • Salesforce.com: No pledge, no footprint data.
  • Adobe: No pledge, no footrpint data.
  • McAfee: No pledge, no footrpint data. 

Confused? If you're not you probably should be. Most of these companies are using different baselines and methods of target derivation and of course, all are running very different business operations. Some are committing to absolute reductions in green house gasses and some only to intensity reductions (this implies that absolute emissions might continue to rise as the business grows). Some of the hardware vendors are considering the CO2 footprint of the full lifecycle of their products, others are not. Oranges to oranges comparisons are elusive here but at least the field is forming. Google's position can be compared quite easily and that's because they are not taking one - no data and no pledge yet. Same for Salesforce, Adobe & McAfee. Oracle do pledge but provide no data yet. Autodesk provide the data but no pledge yet. Microsoft provide the pledge but no data. It goes without saying that pledges without the disclosure of the baseline really makes it difficult to contextualize and evaluate the veracity of the commitment however sincere.

For sure its frontier country out there  - all sorts of wild claims and measures. Lets see who delivers what in the end and hoefully at this micro level its more successful than Kyoto has been at the macro. Some already have delivereed & admirably so. And surely deliver they all will & continue to do so because at the root of these seeming random acts of corporate kindness is a serious race for credibility, innovation leadership and the greenback. It's an enlightened self interest rather than pure, unsullied, environmental zeal. All these players know that whilst the ICT sector is responsible for 2% of global green house gas emissions, their products and services hold the key to massive reductions of the other 98% and thats a boon for business for years to come.

However, I give them all a hell of a lot more credit for their motives in this carbon reduction pledge telethon than Ricky Gervais' in this hilarious triple bluff for Red Nose Day 2007.

It ain't always pretty but believe me this is the best kind of competition you ever want to see.

Editorial standards