Greenpeace takes IT giants to task on climate action

Google, Microsoft and IBM are singled out for not doing enough to put IT's power to work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in the latest release of Greenpeace's Cool IT Challenge.

The campaign aims to pressure the heads of leading IT companies to promote strong climate action in advance of December's climate summit in Copenhagen in the wake of findings that even the most active IT leaders are still not taking strong enough steps.

Greenpeace argues that in part because the IT industry as a whole stands poised to greatly expand its market and potential profits through selling carbon-management software, leading IT companies have a responsibility as well as an incentive to encourage political action.

"Even though the IT industry will profit from strong emissions reduction targets, disappointingly, it is not even close to its potential of leading the way to a low carbon economy," Casey Harrell, Greenpeace International's IT industry analyst, said in a statement.

Harrell added that Apple's recent move to leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over that group's opposition to climate legislation is a good example of IT firms taking leadership on climate policy.

"IT companies can and should publicly and demonstratively call for a change in the Chamber's position on climate or leave the Chamber altogether," Harrell added.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has publicly "shrugged off" the defection of Apple and other companies, who left the group over the course of the last two months.

Greenpeace's Cool IT Challenge ranks companies on a selection of categories:

• Public speech on climate issues

• Political advocacy

• Proposing climate solutions

• The company's own emissions targets

In the latest rankings, IBM scores the highest overall, but with a score of just 43 out of a possible 100, the group said that no company could be considered truly winning.

Other companies that scored at the top of the industry include Hewlett-Packard in second place with 42 points, Fujitsu with 33 points and Google with 32 points.

As part of the latest round of rankings, Greenpeace has published a comparison between Google and Microsoft, focusing on their efforts on all five fronts. Google, which is new to the rankings, is called out for failing to advocate for climate policies in the past six months, and Greenpeace takes Microsoft to task for falling for short on climate policy promotion, despite being a significant donor to a range of political campaigns.

The idea behind the Cool IT Challenge is to put pressure on IT companies, who will then put pressure on politicians; and Greenpeace said it has noticed some progress since the first rankings came out in May, especially from continued activity from IBM and an increase in activity from HP and Toshiba.

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