Data Scandal: Tech giants being questioned as sustainability solution providers

Data Scandal: Tech giants being questioned as sustainability solution providers

Apr 12, 2018
Data center (Image credit: Manuel Geissinger via Pexels)
Thursday, April 12, 2018

London – Facebook’s recent data scandal has raised questions about the tech giant’s place amongst a wide range of leading ‘ESG’ and sustainability funds. Facebook, Google and Apple amongst others have to be carefully examined if they indeed offer solutions to sustainability challenges according to positive impact investor WHEB.

Facebook’s data scandal has awoken the world’s scrutiny of technology companies. Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google have come under increased pressure by parliaments as well as presidents, with US-president Donald Trump attacking online retailer Amazon directly via Twitter.

Whilst all these businesses can be considered ‘tech’ companies, they do offer a variety of services and products that cannot necessarily be compared with each other. One aspect that does connect all of these businesses, literally as well as figuratively, is their dependence on the internet and, by extension, on data centres and server farms, according to a recent post by positive impact investor WHEB. “As we know, this infrastructure consumes vast amounts of energy and, to their credit, the large tech companies have been proactive in seeking to address the carbon emissions associated with this energy use,” stated the investor. It listed Apple as sourcing 96% of their energy from renewable resources in 2017 and Google as reaching its 100% renewable target in 2017. Even Facebook’s target of generating 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2018 – is still way ahead of the wider global economy according to WHEB.

However, the investor says, these achievements are not enough to make these companies solution providers for sustainability. To be eligible for this high praise, the companies’ products and services must genuinely help the world to become more sustainable.

This is not a straightforward question to answer according to the investor who explained why the company remained unconvinced that any of the big tech companies qualified for WHEB’s investable universe. “Google’s mission statement ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ is laudable, but sits awkwardly with its sustainability reporting which says next to nothing about how the company is making information more accessible and useful,” is WHEB’s verdict. Facebook’s mission ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together’ would sound equally promising, wrote the group’s head of research, Seb Beloe, commenting however that this is “arguably pretty much exactly the opposite of what they are doing in selling user data to third parties for advertising and other objectives”.

Data center (Image credit: Manuel Geissinger via Pexels)