Akamai, eBay, Google Set Bar for CO2 Reporting by Internet Giants

Akamai, eBay, Google Set Bar for CO2 Reporting by Internet Giants

Akamai, Apple, eBay and now Google have become industry standouts for disclosing their energy consumption and carbon footprints.

Such efforts should be the norm, rather than the exception among global internet and social networking giants, said David Metcalfe, director of the independent analyst firm Verdantix.

Sadly, that's not the case, according to new research from Verdantix, which took a hard look at the energy and carbon reporting practices of 14 of the largest firms in the industry. Verdantix put Alibaba, Amazon, Baidu, Expedia, Facebook, Netflix, Priceline, Salesforce, Tencent and Yahoo! under the microscope in addition to Akamai, Apple, eBay and Google.

"You have in the study a number of firms that have a very high global profile, and you would have thought that they'd understand the need to be transparent about their environmental performance," said Metcalfe, whose firm specializes in sustainable business.

Although the study was not presented as a rank-and-spank list, Verdantix nevertheless called out the firms it believes should be doing a much better job at managing their carbon footprint and disclosing targets and emissions. The report also gave shout-outs to good work, but there was far more calling out than shouting out.

The research company tagged Expedia, Netflix, Priceline and Tencent as laggards in carbon reporting. In addition to those four, Alibaba, Amazon, Baidu, Facebook and Salesforce were dinged for not disclosing carbon emissions or information about energy use. Verdantix noted, however, that Alibaba is "showing growing environmental awareness" and Salesforce is "getting smarter about sustainability communications."

Apple and Yahoo! were hailed among industry leaders for "comprehensive disclosure" and "exacting carbon intensity goals," respectively. However, that applause was accompanied by a couple of buts. Apple does not have carbon reduction targets that are public, Verdantix noted, and Yahoo! limits its disclosure.

Akamai and eBay received high praise. Verdantix singled out Akamai for its work in striving to become an environmental leader in the internet sector and lauded eBay for its best practices in carbon disclosure.

Google's decision to lift the veil on its energy consumption and carbon footprint provided a timely example of the impact of transparency (see GreenBiz Managing Editor Matt Wheeland's article on the disclosure here).

Google divulged its energy and emissions with the launch of its new site Google Green late last week. Although Verdantix had completed the research for its report before the disclosure and was in the early stages of releasing the study, Google's move bore out some key points of the report.

Google's disclosure showed how a competitive dynamic can work in a peer group, Metcalfe said. It reflected competition among major players to differentiate themselves as leaders in environmental responsibility, and it's hoped that the action will have a ripple effect in the sector.

On the whole, the news from Google aligned well with the aim of the study, Metcalfe said. Namely to "help all decision-makers involved in the sector get a better understanding of what their peer group is doing,'' so they can at least keep up with, if not get ahead of, the curve when it comes to sustainability issues.

With the phenomenal growth in the industry, it's essential that businesses get a firm hand on the costs and risks associated with energy and greenhouse gas emissions -- and that means better carbon management, Metcalfe said. "They all need to do more, and they need to be more transparent."

The Verdantix report, "Carbon Strategy Benchmark: Internet Sector," is available to subscribers. An executive summary and a topline analysis of the firms under review are available free at verdantix.com

Image CC licensed by Flickr user eGuidry.