Looking for Carbon Disclosure From the IT Sector

Looking for Carbon Disclosure From the IT Sector

The technology sector isn't typically seen as being among the major greenhouse gas emitters like the power generation or cement industries, but the nonprofit As You Sow (AYS) wants some of its players to disclose more information about their carbon footprints.

The San Francisco-based NGO filed a successful shareholder resolution with Novell to get the company to report climate data to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). The network server software maker immediately agreed. AYS has also filed a proposal with Apple because it feels the CDP report it did file should have included more information.

AYS also plans to open a dialogue with other tech companies, such as Broadcom, Jabil Circuit, Microchip Technology, Micron Technology and SanDisk, to try to convince them to follow Novell's lead. If unsuccessful, AYS will file similar resolutions.

"We're basically saying that this needs to be on their radar screen," Conrad MacKerron, AYS's director of its corporate social responsibility program, told ClimateBiz.com Tuesday. "Please complete the report."

The CDP is meant to encourage public and private groups to measure, manage and reduce emissions and climate change impacts, and its vast database gives investors a glimpse of the climate change risks and opportunities within their holdings.

AYS follows in the footsteps of other nonprofits, such as Ceres, that have used shareholder activism to press public companies into disclosing the financial and physical risks they face from climate change. AYS has worked on other fronts since the early 1990s, including corporate social responsibility and the reduction of toxic exposure and contamination. Some of its more recent accomplishments include boosting recycling awareness for Nestle Waters North America, which led to the industry's first 60 percent recycling goal for PET plastic bottles, and helping to improve the electronic waste recycling performance of Best Buy Co., Dell and Apple.

Ultimately, the group would like the ability to measure the technology sector's impact on climate change and study the link between global warming and e-waste. It also hopes the information gleaned from the CDP reports could help verify claims made by some players in the field.

"It is helpful to ask questions and probe a little bit further into how they're making their various claims," MacKerron said.

Although many companies are looking at their own operations, MacKerron thinks the big story lies in corporate supply chains. A recent report from Carnegie Mellon University estimated that two-thirds of U.S. industries fail to measure 75 percent of their total greenhouse gas emissions because they exclude supply chain emissions.

It is estimated that the IT sector produces about 2 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, roughly the same amount as the aviation industry.