The tussle for the top of our Cool IT Leaderboard has taken its latest twist, with Google grabbing the top spot ahead of 20 other tech companies, including Cisco and Ericsson.

Pitching global IT companies against each other to find who comes out top in the fight to stop climate change, the 5th edition of the Leaderboard compares the firms on their IT Climate Solutions, IT Energy Impact and Political Advocacy.

Google is way ahead on climate solutions and energy impacts, thanks to its disclosure of its energy footprint, and for providing its impressively detailed mitigation plan for achieving emissions reductions. On top of this, Google continues to speak up on important climate change policies, and make its voice heard on the immediate need for both US and EU governments to aggressively cut emissions.

Unfortunately though, there was a notable drop in scores on political advocacy across the industry. With the urgent need for cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, tech firms are failing to speak up against that dirty energy companies guilty of stalling climate change policy debates at all levels of government. This is troubling; the IT industry is full of environmental rhetoric but simply doesn’t seem to be taking any real action. This is not tenable - the industry expanding too fast, and has too much potential for helping cut global emissions to just stand in the shadows. 

Several companies dropped points for pushing vague plans to mitigate their climate footprint, and for the lack of any plans for powering their future data centres with renewable energy. To remedy these problems, companies need to become more transparent on their investments into IT solutions that work to mitigate climate change and future emissions savings goals. 

However, with the possibility of introducing new climate clever solutions and expanding into emerging markets such as India, the tech business have an opportunity to create a greater demand for renewable energy that will ripple into other parts of the economy. The industry’s energy footprint is growing, and with so many new communities gaining access to mobile phones, tablets, and green building techniques that use innovative IT technology, it won’t be decreasing anytime soon. 

In fact, in the SMART 2020 report released nearly four years ago, it was projected that the Internet’s energy consumption will triple by 2020. But the sector can actually make a dent in global emission cuts in that same time frame by contributing to clever climate solutions by allowing people to measure their electricity consumption. While it is exciting to see the leadership by some of the companies on the Leaderboard, like Google, it is disappointing that the industry as a whole is failing to actualize its real potential.

Is this the kind of leadership we should expect from some of the world’s most inventive people?

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Gary Cook is an IT analyst for Greenpeace International