Google, Cisco share first place on Greenpeace's 2013 Cool IT list

That Google has reclaimed its position at the top of Greenpeace's sixth annual Cool IT Leaderboard ranking should come as no surprise, but this year it isn't alone -- Cisco has bounced back into a leadership position in a tie for first place.

The two companies both earned a score of 58, out of a possible 100, based on their strategies and policies across three areas:

  1. Efforts to offer "economy-wide technological climate solutions" that could help reduce global greenhouse gas reductions (40 points);
  2. Internally focused initiatives intended to minimize the environmental impact of its own operations and cut global warming emissions (25 points); and
  3. Active political advocacy aimed at supporting the emergence of "science-based climate and energy policies (35 points).

Last year, Google earned a 53, while Cisco rated a 49, so both companies improved their performance in the past 12 months.

In all, Greenpeace considered 21 well-known information technology and consumer electronics companies this year -- but the 2013 list omits (as it did last year) two of the biggest names in the high-tech industry, Apple and Facebook.

Two other companies that were included last year, Oracle and Tata Communications Services, were dropped due to what Greenpeace describes as a "significant decline in performance." The organization also "suspended" its inclusion of Sharp because of structural instability at the company.

Three separate category leaders

Cisco's gains largely were tied to the IT energy impact area, where it was No. 1. The company recently revised its greenhouse reduction goals to target a reduction of 40 percent below 2007 levels by 2017.

"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," writes Greenpeace in its executive summary.

Google's strength was advocacy, and it won that individual category. Since 2010, the company has invested an estimated $1 billion in clean energy, notably wind generation technologies. More recently, it issued a $2.5 million grant to the Energy Foundation, an organization that supports intelligent energy reform.

And just last week, Google announced that it would collaborate with Duke Energy to create a new renewable electricity program in North Carolina. The move is related to its plan to double its data center location in the state.

"As Google rapidly expands outside of the U.S. as well, most recently in Asia and Latin America, it will be critical to the company's 100 percent renewable energy goal that it brings the same combination of investment and policy advocacy to bear in these expanding markets," writes Greenpeace in its analysis. "Google can also bring that combination to bear in specific regions of the U.S. where it has data centers but faces monopoly utility companies who offer little in the way of renewable energy to its customers, such as Duke Energy in the southeastern U.S."

Next page: The full rankings, and one hot newcomer