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Stakeholder Trends and Insights
How Google, Apple, Other Silicon Valley Firms Measure Up on Sustainability

Silicon Valley-based firms are often praised for innovation, but how do they measure up when it comes to sustainability efforts?

Silicon Valley-based firms are often praised for innovation, but how do they measure up when it comes to sustainability efforts? The Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) recently sought to answer this question, and examined the reporting practices of 100 small, medium and large businesses from 2013 to 2016, including familiar names such as Apple, Cisco, eBay, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, PayPal, Tesla, Twitter, and Zynga.

While 61 percent of the companies have a sustainability professional, just 29 percent have sustainability reporting, with others sticking to vague online promotion. Furthermore, most seem to focus on one or two elements of sustainability, rather than a systems approach that addresses community, environment, employees, ethics, supply chain and philanthropy. Just 21 percent of the companies studied address all six of these areas; Adobe, Cisco, eBay, Google, HP, Intel and Oracle are among them, while Apple is notably absent.

Ethics seems to receive the most attention, with 95 percent of the firms practicing ethical governance. In comparison, 64 percent report on their supply chain practices and 63 percent do the same for environmental practices.

The lack of evidence of leadership among Silicon Valley firms could either indicate a missed marketing and branding opportunity, or it could indicate that sustainability is not being prioritized.

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“One would expect industry leaders to also lead in sustainability, following best practices in all focus areas to maximize their impact and stakeholder value,” CSE stated. “Yet, leading brands such as LinkedIn and PayPal did not provide easily accessible evidence of comprehensive sustainability practices and reporting. On the other hand, Adobe, Intel and Oracle have both comprehensive and extensive reporting on a myriad of programs addressing all six practices. The ability and potential certainly exists, but the corporate climate toward sustainability is not pervasive.”

CSE claims that its Sustainability Trends in Silicon Valley report, which is only available by request to CSE, is the “first of its kind to delve into corporate behavior in Silicon Valley related to sustainability and corporate responsibility.” It includes the complete list of companies assessed and whether they produce a sustainability report and have a sustainability professional. The bulk of the report focuses on the 21 companies that have comprehensive sustainability practices, including an overview of Adobe as an example of best practices and other examples from Cisco, eBay, Intel and more.

Those interested can learn more about the report in a webinar on Thursday, December 15th, 2016 at 11:00am EST / 8:00am PST.

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