As originally outlined by the IT sector in broad terms in the SMART 2020 report, published in 2008, the IT sector has the opportunity to drive transformative change in the consumption and production of energy, with the potential to drive a significant reduction in the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that cause climate change. This analysis was reconfirmed in 2012 in the SMARTer2020 report, with global estimates of GHG reduction potential exceeding 16% by 2020.
Greenpeace began evaluating global IT companies through its Cool IT Leaderboard in May 2009 in order to identify which firms were leading efforts to drive change in the energy sector. The Leaderboard examines how IT companies use their considerable influence to change government policies that will drive clean energy deployment. In this 6th edition of the Cool IT Leaderboard, the sector continues to show slow but steady improvement in offering energy solutions that have the ability to achieve significant scale, with companies demonstrating that they are willing to make major investments to drive clean energy deployment. In addition, a growing number of companies are increasing their commitment to power their operations with greater percentages of renewable energy, which is critically important given their rapidly growing electricity consumption.
However, despite the business opportunities and corporate commitments to renewable energy that IT companies are adopting, the sector still lacks leadership in demanding the policy changes needed to drive investment in clean technology and renewable energy deployment. Monopoly electric utilities, such as Duke Energy in the US and TEPCO in Japan, have not embraced the innovative potential of the IT sector on energy systems, and instead remain committed to polluting, centralised electricity generation like coal and nuclear power. Many of these same utilities support right-wing front groups such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in the US, and trade associations such as the Keidanren in Japan, which are some of the biggest political obstacles to a transition to a renewable energy economy. To combat the formidable power of this dirty energy political bloc, IT companies have to take vocal leadership in advocating for renewable energy, as well as the IT energy solutions they can provide as the backbone of a modern, 21st century energy infrastructure.
There are promising signs. Wipro, Google, Sprint and SoftBank have prioritised changing the laws and policies governing our energy system, working to break down utility monopolies and incentivising investment in advanced energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy. As this will be a critical year in many countries to determine whether there will be a meaningful break in the status quo energy policies, Greenpeace will continue to update the advocacy leadership of IT companies throughout 2013.
As a result of recent evaluations of company leadership, Oracle and Tata Communication Services (TCS), which were included in the 5th edition of the Cool IT Leaderboard, have been dropped from this edition due to a significant decline in performance. We will continue to monitor Oracle and TCS’s efforts, and will consider including them again in subsequent Leaderboards. Similarly, Sharp – which has been evaluated in each of the previous five Leaderboards – is undergoing significant structural change due to economic conditions and poor performance, and evaluation has been suspended for this edition while the company stabilises.
Highlights of the 2013 Leaderboard
Google and SoftBank put their money and their mouths behind a renewable energy transition, with both making significant new investments into renewable energy deployment and advocating for policies that will incentivise greater investment in renewable energy. Cisco returns to the top of the Leaderboard with an updated set of targets for its operations, along with a performance-based commitment to move away from coal. Wipro and Sprint demonstrate critical leadership in the passage of renewable energy legislation in India and the US respectively.
This Leaderboard shows an increased assessment of negative lobbying penalty points for IT companies who support front groups or trade associations that are actively working to undermine government policies to address climate change and promote renewable energy investments.