How Green are Their CEOs?

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Although this story is not about open source, it provides an alternative insight into leading computing companies and their CEOs.

Greenpeace has set up an online petition with the following aims:

Google, IBM and Microsoft should use their influence in Washington to help get a strong international climate deal in Copenhagen. They should also publicly rebuke the US Chamber of Commerce for its opposition to climate change legislation - or leave in protest as Apple has.

Furthermore:

Google, Microsoft and IBM are amongst the largest and most influential of US companies in terms of market share, numbers of employees and contribution to GDP.

We expect them to be leading the field in this area, and yet they have not spoken out against the Chamber of Commerce's position. They are all members, and IBM are actually on their Board of Directors. we need them to take a public stance against the position of the chamber, as many other companies have already done, including Apple.

Additionally, none of the companies are lobbying for strong enough action on climate change. The closest any of them have come so far is Google, who have produced a 2030 plan, which is a start, but it is not clear to us how they are pushing this plan, and the climate needs more urgent action. None of these companies have said that mandatory cuts of the levels that the science says we need are necessary, acheivable and good for business.

When companies of this size say something, you can be sure that politicians will listen, so the question is why are they so silent on this issue, when it is clear that they have a business interest in addressing CO2 emissions? We think the companies with the most potential for a positive influence should also be heard, in public and as loudly and frequently as possible.

That's interesting enough, but what really caught my attention was the “leaderboard” down the left-hand side of the petition page. This rates the performance of the CEOs of major computer companies in terms of what they are doing on green issues. IBM's Sam Palmisano is in first place with 43 marks out of 100; Google's Eric Schmidt is in fourth place with 32/100. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer has a rather dismal 23/100, but even that's much better than the laggards like Sony (10/100) and Panasonic (8/100).

Obviously the marks are arbitrary to a certain extent, and Greenpeace clearly wants to shame major computer players into doing more. But I think it's still a worthwhile exercise, and shows that high-tech companies aren't exactly setting themselves high bars in the environmental area.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

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