American ICT Companies Defend Green Policies to Political Conservatives
We report on the environmental activities of ICT manufacturers providers because their environmental footprints become 'embodied' in the gear and services we use and thus become part of our footprints. It is inevitable that, in polarized America, ICT companies' environmental positions draw fire from politically conservative organizations. We look at two examples, one involving Apple and the another involving large cloud service providers, and a dramatic move by one of the world's largest ICT companies.
Slate reports on a February 2014 Apple shareholder meeting: "...the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank and Apple investor that thinks the company could be making more money if it stopped caring about the environment...called on Apple to take a pledge that it would not pursue environmental initiatives unless they helped increase profit." This comes on the heels of what the NCPPR calls a "major concession" from General Electric.
According to Slate, "Cook did not hesitate. Even though some environmental policies can be good for the bottom line, 'we do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive,' Cook said. 'We want to leave the world better than we found it.' And anyone who objects? 'Get out of the stock.'"
Madison.com features an August 2014 article about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). "The more than 40-year-old organization has become known in recent years for hosting conferences and writing model legislation that is then pushed by conservative lawmakers in states around the country." The news site reported on a local legislator who attended a recent ALEC conference.
"[Rep. Chris} Taylor, D-Madison, attended...an environmental discussion that featured a speaker representing tech firms Google, eBay, Facebook and Yahoo. Taylor said the representative told the 'coal is king' ALEC crowd that they needed to create more policies favorable to renewable energy. The representative spoke of the need for these companies to build large datacenters that use a lot of power to operate. Taylor said some attendees asked how the companies explain this choice to their shareholders, while others asked why they should support subsidized energy like wind and solar. Taylor said the attendees were told coal and oil is also subsidized and shareholders are told the use of renewable energy is a better long-term financial option that is increasingly popular with customers." The irony of this situation is that these companies, along with many other American ICT companies, were reported to be ALEC members.
A month later, SFGate.com reported that Google announced it would drop ALEC membership and that Facebook would likely make a similar announcement soon. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was quoted as saying ALEC was “literally lying” about climate change.
I applaud Cook's immediate and definitive response and Google's recent action. It's clear from the SFGate news report that Google felt it had made little progress with ALEC climate deniers at the meeting.
One of the missions of Vertatique is build awareness among individuals and organizations of the value of sustainable ICT purchasing. The more we purchase equipment and services with low carbon footprints, fewer hazardous substances and conflict minerals, and other green attributes, the more ICT companies' environmental activities will translate into profitable sales. Economic sustainability is, after all, one of the components of Triple Bottom Line (3BL) thinking.