ICT and Big Data
Cisco, Google Top Greenpeace's Cool IT Leaderboard for Energy Innovation

“Tech giants have the capacity to lead society to cleaner, smarter energy systems, as both Cisco and Google have demonstrated,” announced Greenpeace International Senior IT analyst Gary Cook. The two companies tied for first place in a recent evaluation of the top 21 IT and telecom firms that prioritize energy solutions to climate change as a core aspect of their business model. Ericsson made it to the podium in third place, Fujitsu came in fourth, and Sprint, Wipro and Hewlett Packard all tied for fifth.

This is Greenpeace International’s sixth edition of its Cool IT Leaderboard. The three main criteria used in the rankings were:

  1. An offering of IT solutions to reduce energy demand
  2. The management of their own energy footprint
  3. How they use their influence to advocate for government policies that encourage renewable energy and energy efficiency

This year most companies made the biggest strides in enabling a renewably powered economy. However, most companies were found to be underperforming in demanding a policy shift towards new investment in smart grid and clean energy solutions. This is further hampered by companies such as Duke Energy in the U.S. and TEPCO in Japan shunning the innovative potential of the IT sector in favor of polluting and using centralized electricity generation through coal or nuclear energy.

Companies that were successful in Greenpeace's ranking were the most active in the political arena. Sprint, Google, Wipro and SoftBank all prioritized policy changes to incentivize investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy across the U.S., Japan, and India.

Policy change needs to go beyond the global or even the national scale. For example, in North Carolina where AT&T, Cisco, Google, IBM, and Wipro all operate, these companies could work together to demand renewable energy from the imperfect Duke Energy or step in to defend state renewable energy policies currently at risk from fossil-fuel funded groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The winner of most improved still has some improvement to do. Microsoft finally used its influence in Washington to support the extension of wind energy tax incentives in the U.S., but the company continues to be a member of ALEC. Seven out of the 21 companies were assessed penalties in the evaluation for negative lobbying affiliations such as this.

Facebook, although not included in the survey, is worth mentioning for its creativity and emphasis on renewable energy. The company recently announced that its next data center would be built in wind-energy-friendly Iowa; this is the type of strategy that Greenpeace hopes to encourage through this evaluation.

Greenpeace recently also recognized Apple and Salesforce for the steps they are taking to reduce impacts associated with the IT aspects of their operations.

UPDATE: On Friday, April 26, Greenpeace released this note: Greenpeace’s Cool IT Leaderboard, released on April 24, contained an error. Greenpeace penalized IBM by five points for its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a lobby group that works to block clean energy and climate policy. IBM has alerted us that they have no affiliation with ALEC at this time, so we have restored the five points, moving IBM from 11th place to a tie for 8th. We regret the error.


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