Greenpeace’s latest energy report called out Amazon as being one of the worst dirty energy transgressors. But the report also praises Apple for completely switching to renewable energy, showing that public pressure and greater transparency can turn former energy offenders into most improved.
The organization ranked tech industry giants such as Twitter, eBay, Apple, Google, and Facebook based on how clean their energy sources are. Apple came out on top because it only uses renewable energy for its iCloud and iTunes services. However, Greenpeace flunked Amazon and Twitter, penalizing them for not being transparent about their energy sources.
Amazon’s Web Services relies heavily on nuclear and coal energy to run data-guzzling services like Netflix, Spotify, Tumblr, and Yelp, the report stated.
As cloud computing grows, a tech company’s carbon footprint becomes an increasingly important issue. Overall, when customers push companies to be more transparent about their energy sources, the greener they become. Apple, Google, and Facebook have all emphasized their green credentials and use of renewable energy after being chastised by Greenpeace.
“What you have is a set of customer-facing companies that are delivering very valuable information services,” Jonathan Koomey, a Stanford University research fellow for energy policy and finance, told ThinkProgress. “Because they are customer-facing, these companies actually care about where they get their electricity. When it’s shown that they’re getting their energy from sources that aren’t as clean, that’s a problem for their customers.”
To combat a poor public image, companies in turn start revising their policies and focus on investing in cleaner energies. Greenpeace released a similar report in 2012 that named Apple as one of the dirtiest companies. Since then, Apple has jumped to the front of pack. “Apple is the archetypal example,” Koomey said. “They were really slammed in the first report. And what Apple decided to do was put this whole thing behind them and go to 100 percent renewable [energy].”
In response to the report, Amazon said in a statement that Greenpeace’s findings “missed the mark” and that the company offers a variety of environmentally friendly cloud services worldwide. “AWS operates efficient and highly utilized datacenters across 10 different Regions globally, two of which (Oregon and GovCloud Regions) use 100% carbon-free power,” the statement read.
The only way companies like Amazon can refute these kinds of rankings in the future is by being more transparent with their customers and researchers. “Show us where the reality is different from what Greenpeace assumes. Be more transparent and forthcoming about the information you share related to your sources of electricity and your efficiency of your data centers.” In doing that, companies can elevate their rankings in part because they will find that some of their practices aren’t as efficient as they could be and change them, Koomey added.