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I see Google have published an article o…

I see Google have published an article on their ambitions to achieve carbon neutrailty . It is not a bad piece (if you ignore the strong emphasis on offsets).

However, what is supremely disappointing is Google’s complete lack of any attempt at Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting. Most significant IT companies have a CSR site with downloadable CSR reports. Most conform to the Global Reporting Initiative standards.

The only significant IT player I found who doesn’t do any sustainability reporting whatsoever is Amazon! Obviously Amazon doesn’t believe in sustainability.

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Corporate Social Responsibility – tech companies reviewed!

Corporate Social Responsibility

According to its Wikipedia definition, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, communities and other stakeholders, as well as the environment. This obligation is seen to extend beyond the statutory obligation to comply with legislation and sees organizations voluntarily taking further steps to improve the quality of life for employees and their families as well as for the local community and society at large.

Companies are now starting to report on their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in greater numbers. Drivers for this include the rise in ethical consumerism, socially responsible investing, employee recruitment and loyalty, changing laws and regulations, increased scrutiny and transparency and risk mitigation.

According to the Sustainable Investment Research Analyst’s (SIRAN) 2008 report (pdf warning):

  • 86 of the S&P 100 companies now have corporate sustainability websites, compared to 58 in mid-2005, an increase of 48 percent;
  • 49 of the leading U.S. companies produced a sustainability report in 2007, an increase of 26 percent from 39 in 2005

In an attempt to define standards and make these reports cross-comparable, the Global Reporting Initiative has come up with a sustainability reporting framework. According to Wikipedia:

The GRI Guidelines are the most common framework used in the world for reporting. More than 1000 organizations from 60 countries use the Guidelines to produce their sustainability reports.

A quick search of tech sites reveals:
IBM’s stellar Corporate Responsibility site – IBM’s site has a ton of good information and a downloadable CSR report (pdf) and includes the Global Reporting initiative (GRI) index. If there is a tech company with a better CSR site than this, please tell me, I haven’t found it yet!

From the Dell site you can see dell has been producing Sustainability reports back to 1998 (called Environment reports back then). The 2008 CSR report (pdf) is linked to from the company Values page and is a really good example of how to do these reports well.

SAP’s Sustainability site is pretty bare bones (and though found by Google, I couldn’t find a link to it on the corporate website! Having said that, their Sustainability report (pdf), linked to from their Sustainability site, is very good for a first effort. It includes a GRI index and while SAP admit that the report is prepared to GRI Application Level C, they give a commitment to producing a “report to GRI B+ standard externally assured and audited in second quarter 2009”.

Cisco’s CSR site includes a great 5 minute video on CSR from Cisco CEO John Chambers and some of his CSR related staff. Unfortunately the video is not embeddable and is all rights reserved or I would embed it here šŸ™ Cisco’s CSR 2008 report is available in a Flash interactive version or the more traditional (and easier to consume) pdf version! Again this report has a GRI index included.

Sun’s excellent CSR site includes a podcast, lots of great links to relevant information and its superb 2008 CSR report (pdf) – again with the GRI index data.

Oracle also has a good CSR site. Oracle’s site links to its 2008 Corporate Citizenship report (pdf) but it doesn’t include a GRI index link.

HP’s Global Citizenship site looks good until you check out their CSR report – it dates to financial year 2007 (which ended October 31, 2007). In its defense, it does include a GRI index but guys, come on, 2007?

Neither Intel nor AMD have reports for 2008. But while Intel have a very comprehensive downloadable pdf report on their CSR initiatives for 2007, the AMD offering consists of a disappointing four tables of performance indicators across the last few years.

If you are looking for Microsoft’s CSR report, you will find it buried under Resource Center -> Awards and Reports -> now click on the Reports tab on their Corporate Citizenship site. The most recent report is dated 2007-08. It is a 5 page document of mostly images, there is no mention whatsoever of GRI, there is no executive involvement, and in comparison to previous years reports, it looks like Microsoft’s limited focus on CSR has waned completely.

Having said that, at least Microsoft has produced a report! Apple didn’t even do that. When As You Sow, recently tabled a shareholder resolution that would require Apple to publish a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, The company issued a proxy filing asking shareholders to vote against this resolution, saying that the publication would be an unnecessary expense that would ā€œproduce little added value.ā€

Having said that, at least Apple have a section on their site dedicated to their environmental efforts, Amazon don’t even appear to do that. Their filed reports page makes no effort to include any reports about environmental stewardship or corporate citizenship although given the story which came out before Christmas about Amazon’s shocking employment practices, that can hardly be any surprise.

Ironically Google’s CSR efforts are supremely difficult to find! They do have a corporate website dedicated to their Green Initiatives but like Apple, they too don’t have any CSR report (that I could find!).

Who’d I miss? Who is better? Who is worse?

Original photo by ATIS547

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Scratched DVDs soon to be a thing of the past?

Scratched DVD

Photo credit Fred

I have two little boys. One is five, the other is two. DVDs have a short life in our house. It is almost impossible to keep them out of little hands. What happens to when the boys find them, esp. when the two year old handles them, is not pretty! So, if not entirely for Green reasons, I am really looking forward to the day that DVDs are no more!

DVDs are going away, you say? Indeed they are. Dematerialization ftw!

DVDs will soon go the way of the humble casette tape or even the CD – you remember CDs right? Not so long ago they were the default way to buy music, now it is online via iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Similarly, for all kinds of reasons of convenience, I see DVDs being obsolete in the not-to-distant future.

The way I see it, movies will be universally available for download. Once you purchase them online, you download/stream to watch and will get the option to store them remotely (in a virtual movie library) and/or store them locally (local backup). Should you lose your local backup, you simply re-download at no cost.

Green advantages are the obvious lack of pressing, packaging and shipping of DVDs. Non-Green advantages include not having to keep DVDs on the higher shelves away from little hands and/or wondering if that DVD you just rented from your local store will actually play when you get it home!

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How Green is Cloud Computing?

Australian Open web traffic

This is a graph of traffic to the website of the Australian Open tennis championship. As you can see, the traffic spikes in January every year and then all but disappears for the other 11 months of the year. It is also important to note that the height of the traffic spike is increasing year on year.

If the owners of this site want to be able to serve all the traffic at the top peak of the peak, they can spend a fortune on servers capable of handling that level of traffic but these servers will be almost entirely idle for eleven months of the year. The alternative is that the owners put the site on a cloud platform and dial up the resources associated with it, as and when needed. This is obviously a vastly more efficient option for the site owners. However, that doesn’t mean that cloud computing itself is Green or efficient.

For cloud computing to be efficient, the individual servers need to be doing more work than they would be doing if not in a cloud infrastructure. The main cloud providers include Amazon, Google, IBM and more recently, Microsoft. As far as I know, none of these companies are providing utilisation data per unit, so it is not possible to know just how efficient cloud computing actually is.

There is another consideration. There are a number of start-ups who say that they couldn’t have built their infrastructure if it wasn’t for cloud i.e. theirs is additional consumption which wouldn’t haven’t existed without the cloud. Does this newly facilitated consumption mean that cloud computing is less Green?

And without usage data from the cloud providers will we ever truly know if cloud computing is Green?