Greenpeace is releasing its first scoreboard on whether some of the information and communications technology giants are making earnest efforts to not only cut their own emissions but also develop products to help others to do so.
Called the Cool IT Challenge (or the "shame on you" strategy), Greenpeace said Wednesday that Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu are doing better than companies such as HP, Microsoft and Sony in taking measures to reduce projected 2020 greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent. But all of them need to do much much more.
Those two companies scored higher because of their public advocacy work and product offerings to reduce emissions, Greenpeace said.
The environmental advocacy group took the 15 percent reduction target from a 2008 report by Britain's The Climate Group, whose members include IBM, Dell and Lenovo from the IT sector, as well as a slew of others such as British Petroleum, Better Place, China Mobile, Coca-Cola, Nike and Suntech Power.
If the IT industry doesn't do anything to curb emissions, said the report, its emissions could reach 1.43 billion tons in 2020, up from 0.53 billion tons in 2002. By taking measures identified in the report, the industry could slash up to 7.8 billion tons of emissions produced by themselves and others, or 15 percent of emissions over the world's overall emissions by 2020.
Taking steps to cut the industry's emission is good and all, but the report said the biggest contribution IT companies could make to curb climate change is to create products that help to reduce emission and lobby for stricter policies to combat global warming. Those products could include fuel-efficient car engines, devices and software to gauge and report electricity consumption by consumers and businesses and building designs that conserve energy.
The report said smart grid technologies presented the largest opportunity that is worth $124.6 billion and could cut the global's emissions y 2.03 billion tons
So Greenpeace asked 12 IT companies to reply to its letter, while urging them take the following steps: create new products, advocate for a tough treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol when countries meet in Copenhagen this December, and use more renewable energy and cut emissions.
The environmental group then gave a score for each company based on their replies to show what they have done in those areas (see scoring rules). It's difficult to figure out why the companies got certain scores without knowing what their responses were. Greenpeace said the top scorers were Sun and IBM, both getting 29 out of 100. Sharp received 5 while Toshiba got 2 to round out the bottom two.
Some IT companies will tell you that it isn't easy to determine the best way to cut their own emissions. Google recently announced that it had finally offset all of its 2007 carbon emission partly by investing in cleantech projects that generated carbon credits (see Carbon Credit Shopping Ain't Easy). The company thought it could accomplish that goal by the end of 2007 and noted the difficulties of picking what it considered worthy projects.
Dell faced some public ridicule after it proclaimed last August that it had become carbon neutral ahead of schedule by paying extra for power to support green energy generation efforts by utilities and by buying carbon credits from renewable energy projects. A Wall Street Journal article then questioned whether Dell really achieved its goal since the computer company didn't take into account emissions from activities such as fuels used to ship Dell's products and the production of computer components by its suppliers.
The article said Dell in effect had only neutralized about 5 percent of the emissions from making and using its products.
Greenpeace said it plans to update the scoreboard this summer.