Casting Stones at Apple and Facebook Opens the Door to Amazon’s Glass House

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Casting Stones at Apple and Facebook Opens the Door to Amazon’s Glass House

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Monday, April 2, 2012 - 5:30pm

Recently, the Environmental Leader brought to light a blog post from a member of Amazon’s Web Services team in which he concluded, “[I] find myself wondering if […] large solar farms are really somewhere between a bad idea and pure marketing, where the environmental impact is purely optical.” One of the author’s examples was Apple’s iDataCenter facility at Maiden, North Carolina. After running the figures on a number of variables, the author determined that solar projects are both space and cost inefficient

While the author raises several valid points, he fails to mention the strides that Apple is making to reduce their overall climate impact- a concept that Amazon has been woefully slow to embrace. Climate Counts, a nonprofit that rates companies on their climate leadership, most recently scored Apple at a striding 60 out of 100 points, while Amazon remained stuck with 11 points, dead last in the internet/software sector.

When visiting the sustainability section of Apple’s web site, it is clear to consumers that they have taken responsibility and are working to reduce the impact of their carbon footprint. In fact, even as their revenue has grown, their greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of revenue has decreased by 15.4 percent since 2008.

Amazon, in contrast, has made seemingly little effort to measure and reduce their companywide greenhouse gas emissions while providing only cursory level commitments to reducing their overall environmental impact. When compared against other Internet and software companies, Amazon sustainability initiatives are sub-par.  

For example, eBay, another e-commerce company, scored 64 points based on CC’s scorecard. Upon visiting eBay’s sustainability webpage, consumers are provided with information on a variety of sustainability initiatives, from advancing transparency through the Carbon Disclosure Project to Green eBay, which was created by 40 eBay employees who wanted to make their company a truly green place to work. eBay has distinguished itself by strongly advocating for comprehensive public policy that addresses climate change and would lead to market-wide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the growth of renewable energy capacity.

Another example of a software company making strides to reduce their carbon footprint is Microsoft. Leading the way in CC’s internet/software scorecard sector with 68 points, Microsoft is strongly committed to developing solutions that address environmental challenges while encouraging policymakers to stimulate technology innovation. They provide ways for both their buyers and their employees to reduce their environmental impact from recycling electronics to participating in their corporate campus transit system.

Leading by example, eBay and Microsoft integrate sustainability into their business plans seamlessly. It is the responsibility of other companies in their sector, such as Amazon, to follow suit and take action to reduce their climate impact.

- Susan Torman, Communications Intern- Climate Counts