February 08, 2012, 2:16 PM — Google's motto of "Do No Evil" apparently extends to its environmental policies, as the company was recently ranked first on Greenpeace's Cool IT Leaderboard for overall green practices. Google grabbed the top spot for the first time, ranking high due to recent disclosure of its own carbon footprint as well as its investment in utility projects such as a large-scale solar project taking place near Sacramento. Other reasons it made the top of the list? The RechargeIT.org project which was designed by Google to demonstrate the technology used in plug-in electric vehicles and to accelerate their adoption, as well as other actions such as increasing its renewable energy purchasing and creating a subsidiary called Google Engery.
Greenpeace's Cool IT Leaderboard is designed to rank major Information and Communication Technology companies on the quantity and strength of their green practices, primarily energy solutions - with the most recent version, Version 5, having just been released. It is also closely related to the Smart 2020 Report, published in 2008, which highlighted opportunities for companies in technology to contribute to change in energy production and consumption. The SMART 2020 study estimated the footprint of the IT sector at 2% of all global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions mainly due to data centers, telecoms, computers and other devices.
In addition to the constant stream of energy required for everything from mobile devices to servers, there is also increasing attention paid to the supply chain -- many companies featured on the leaderboard are also identifying places in the manufacturing chain where greenhouse gas emissions can be better managed, helping to drive investment away from a dirty energy supply. Speaking of that constant stream of energy, it's easy to see how quickly it adds up when looking at the 2007 Electricity Consumption chart from Greenpeace's Make IT Green Report.
There's no slowing down our demand for more and more electricity -- based on current projections, the combined electricity demand of the data centers and telecommunications networks that made up the cloud is 623 billion kWh (killowatt hours) globally. Data centers, driving much of the demand, are often taxed by inadequacies in the power grids. India's IT sector, for example, is reliant on diesel making it responsible for heavy CO2 emissions. However, looking at the list of actions taken by companies on the Cool IT Leaderboard, there is an obvious trend being taken towards clean and renewable energy; from Fujitsu establishing goals to reducing carbon emissions, to Cisco providing case studies on how innovation technology can help reduce emissions and ensuring suppliers take steps to reduce carbon emissions during manufacturing.