IT firms see opportunity in averting climate crisis

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Feature story - December 7, 2010
Google, Cisco and HP are some of the best-known brands in our updated Cool IT leaderboard. This year saw these companies and other top information technology (IT) firms side with the planet, many for the first time, in some of the most important climate legislative and policy debates. But while some are beginning to get the message, other companies are failing to seize the chance to support strong governmental action that will lead to increased business opportunities for their climate solution offerings.

Cool IT leaderboard

The IT industry is in a unique position to innovate energy and transport solutions, cut their carbon footprint, and advocate for strong government policies on climate – so we use these as our key criteria for scoring each company.

The fourth version of the Cool IT leaderboard, was released at the UNFCCC meeting in Cancun, Mexico today. The separation between IT climate leaders and laggards is especially clear in the Leaderboard's scoring for climate advocacy. Examples of note include:

  • Sony Europe joined Google to support the European Union's attempt to establish an ambitious target of 30 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2020, while Microsoft, Intel, and IBM received penalty points for being part of Business Europe’s opposition to this target.
  • Google, with support from Cisco and HP, successfully helped to counter California's Proposition 23 ballot measure, a failed attempt by oil interests to derail the state's landmark global warming law, known as the "California Global Warming Solutions Act."
  • Fujitsu scored high marks for its presentation of twelve specific climate and clean energy policy recommendations to the Japanese government, which is considering a law to reduce greenhouse gas emission 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, while the rest of the Japanese IT companies remained silent (and received a negative advocacy penalty). The IT trade lobby JEITA opposed this draft legislation.

"The most forward looking IT companies scored higher because they recognize that they will gain from a low carbon world," said Greenpeace energy policy analyst Gary Cook. "The sector is happy to talk about its potential to lower carbon emissions by 15 percent by 2020, but thus far, IT companies are still taking an incremental approach instead of providing transformative solutions at the scale and speed for which they are known. The corporate sector, and particularly IT, must work today, not tomorrow, to change the status quo and intervene at important junctures to speak up for strong climate and energy policy."

In this version of the Cool IT Leaderboard, first, second and third place go to Cisco, Ericsson, and Fujitsu. Cisco’s #1 rank reflects the company’s recognition of a clear opportunity to make IT climate solutions an increasingly core part of its business strategy.

Cool IT leaderboard version 4 scores table. Click to enlarge and download image.

Francis Bacon once wrote that a wise man will make more opportunities than he finds. If the IT industry truly embrace the opportunity that faces them, they could deliver transformative climate solutions and be a formidable advocate for the sort of climate policies that will create demand for these products and services.

But the green economy won't just evolve naturally from today's fossil fuel-dependent one. The energy revolution requires everyone with an interest in a clean energy future to get on board and make it happen. IT firms are perfectly placed to lead the way.