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Greenpeace lauds Cisco on climate, chides Google

Cisco gets high marks for emissions reporting and smart grid push while Google, despite renewable energy efforts, gets pressure to disclose more.

Despite Google's lobbying on clean-energy policy and investments in renewable energy, it was Cisco and Ericsson who received Greenpeace's top marks in its ranking of computing vendors' activity on climate change.

The environmental watchdog group released its annual Cool IT Leaderboard on Thursday, which judges large IT and consumer electronics companies on a range of criteria related to climate change, including efforts to lower their environmental footprints and commercial efforts in energy and efficiency.

This year, Greenpeace placed Cisco at the top of the list because of its move into building energy management and the smart grid, technologies that can boost renewable energy use and efficiency.

Ericsson and Fujitsu scored well for developing methods for measuring the environmental impact of IT and for setting credible carbon reduction estimates for its customers.

Google, meanwhile, was marked down for not reporting its internal greenhouse gas emissions, which most companies surveyed do. In response, a Google representative on Wednesday said that it doesn't disclose information on the size of its operations for competitive reasons.

Google's data centers run efficiency, consuming about half the power as typical data centers by optimizing the chip, power pack design, and building cooling. "We are...dedicated to minimizing our footprint; it makes business and environmental sense for us to do so," the representative said.

Overall, Greenpeace is pressuring IT and communications companies to get involved in energy policy, which is historically not been an activity of tech companies. As it did in last year's Cool IT Leaderborad, Greenpeace is also prodding IT companies to take advantage of the commercial possibilities in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, as does IBM's Smart Planet initiative. Greenpeace estimates that applying IT to transportation, buildings, and power generation can result in 15 percent emissions reduction over the next 10 years.

"The company bottom line coupled with the environmental bottom line, the need to curb a growing greenhouse gas emissions, should send the IT industry to the front lines in the battle for a clean energy economy," said Greenpeace campaigner Casey Harrell in a statement. "The sector needs to step up its policy advocacy now."

For Earth Day last week, Greenpeace organized a panel on IT and climate change which was hosted by Cisco and had representatives from Cisco, Google, IBM, and Microsoft.

Updated at 11:45 with comment from Google.