Google Company Review

January 12, 2017

Welcome to the Google company review. In this series of articles, we put the spotlight on businesses that we think are doing ambitious and honourable things for the environment. These features will cover things like corporate social responsibility, sustainability, green credentials, carbon reduction measures, recycling, reuse and reduction efforts, supply chain responsibility, and more. To provide a fair and balanced account, we will also cover any wrongdoing, environmental damage, or bad practice that we find.

Each category will be scored out of 20, to give a total score out of 100.

Thanks to Google, humanity’s access to knowledge, data, and resources is at an all-time high. The search engine, founded back in 1998, is now one of the world’s largest businesses, making billions per year primarily through ad revenue. It is the fourth most valuable business in the world, behind Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, and has become a normal part of everyday culture, with people using Google multiple times per day.

Success upon success upon success, but has Google paid back its riches to its users, and to the environment? Let’s find out.

Sustainability

Score: 20%

The sustainability arm of Google lives by this phrase ‘At Google, we strive to build sustainability into everything we do’. The work the company is doing towards sustainability includes: educating people about day-to-day sustainable best practice, using data and insights to inform environmental action, introducing the Circular Economy to their own data centres, and developing platforms such as Global Fishing Watch to make certain industries more responsible Google’s secondary aim is to get the most out of their technology without the requirement for further resources. They’re doing this by creating efficient data centres, accelerating their transition to renewable energy, creating sustainable workplaces, and empowering users with technology help ensure a cleaner, healthier future for generations to come Google purchased enough renewable energy to match 100% of their operations in 2017 The data centres also divert 91% of their waste from landfill thanks to reuse, recycling, and refurbishment, with a target for Zero Waste status in the near future Their headquarters in Bay Area, San Francisco, are powered by a 1.6-megawatt rooftop solar installation, which was the world’s biggest when first installed In 2014, Google purchased more than 1 gigawatt of renewable energy. By 2016 this figure was over 2.5 gigawatts. In 2018 this figure was just under 3 gigawatts By 2015, Google’s investments in renewable energies had reached $2.5bn By the end of 2017, over 1 million square meters (11.1 million square feet) of Google office facilities had achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification You can read a lot more about Google’s sustainability efforts in their 2018 environmental report, and if you have the time there are dozens of reports from Google on more specific aspects of their operations, which you can find here.

Green Credentials

Score: 10%

Carbon neutral for more than 10 years The first company in North America to achieve a multi-site ISO 50001 certified energy management system Google helped put together a documentary on the fight against child labour in the mining industry - Google is part of many partnerships that hope to end the child labour Interestingly, despite a lot of research, we couldn’t find any of Google’s green awards or sustainability certifications, so, either they are being overlooked, or their own algorithm is incredibly humble and is suppressing these results.

Corporate Social Responsibility Test

Score: 20%

Google has made a $1 billion commitment through their foundation to help non-profits to grow and make the world better and more inclusive They are also committed to giving 1 million volunteer hours Learn more about google.org here Google set up the Impact Challenge, ‘an open call to organizations around the world to submit their ideas for how they could use AI to help address societal challenges. Selected organizations will receive support from Google’s AI experts, Google.org grant funding from a $25M pool, credit and consulting from Google Cloud, and more’. GoogleServe: ‘Each June, we encourage Googlers to leave their desks for a day to participate in service projects in their communities, ranging from cleaning graffiti to teaching prisoners. In addition, we help Googlers match their skills to specific non-profit needs, and allow them to use up to 20 hours of work time across the year to volunteer. In the last year, more than 5,000 Googlers tackled more than 400 projects around the world, to volunteer over 50,000 hours in the communities where they live and work.’ Employee Gift Matching: ‘We match Googler contributions to non-profits that they love. We add even more when they volunteer their time or get to work through environmentally-friendly modes of transport – whether by foot, bike or kayak. Combined, we’ve donated over $50 million to more than 12,000 non-profit organisations.’ Congo Power is a scheme set up to help Congolese people get access to electricity, as they have one of the lowest electrification rates in the world Google initiated the Technical Pilot Program for China Energy Management and Performance Evaluation in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the China National Institute of Standardization The initiatives above are just a handful of the amazing things that Google is doing to make the world a better place.

Carbon Footprint

Score: 19%

By using Google shuttles and corporate electric vehicles in the Bay Area in 2017, Google saved more than 33,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions—equivalent to taking 6,500 cars off the road every day for a year Google has offset 17,000,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions Google’s data centres, on average, use 50% less energy than their competitors Google has been carbon neutral since 2007 Google’s site in Saint-Ghislain, Belgium, became their first to introduce on-site solar panels, with their 10,665 photovoltaic panels generating 2.9 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of clean, reliable, renewable energy each year, reducing electricity demand from the Belgian electrical grid and shrinking the site’s carbon footprint Read page 29 of Google’s Environmental Report for 2018 to learn more about their Carbon Footprint reduction data

Recycling, Reuse, Reduction

Score: 17%

Tracking data and making adjustments in Google’s cafés helped them avoid more than 1 million kilograms (2.3 million pounds) of food waste in their cafés around the world With help from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a nonprofit which helps large companies embrace the Circular Economy, Google has been working hard to reduce their waste and turn it into a resource At Google’s London office, employees don’t have bins at their desks, so they have to visit a centralised recycling area to separate waste from recyclables. This has increased recycling by 50% alone Google has its own interactive waste reduction web app, called ‘Your plan, your planet’, which you can use here. The app features information, tracking, and quizzes Google has also set the ambitious goal of being zero waste in all of their data centres For a company that is a service rather than a product, they are doing a great job on the waste reduction and recycling fronts.

Total Eco Score

Score: 86%