Are Tech Companies for the Sustainable Future?

This week the UK Glasgow is holding the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26. As the summit official statement says, “the event is poised to be one of the most consequential climate events since the negotiation of the Paris Agreement in 2015.” Several weeks ago, Chinese city of Kunming hosted another biggest environmental event of the year: the UN Biodiversity Conference COP15.


Image source: BBC


Climate change and sustainable development challenges are probably one of the most formidable ones and need urgent actions.


Are the most influential tech companies joining the movement for sustainable future?



Google

Google is running Google Environment Department which is a subsidiary company and was created to reduce costs of energy consumption of the Google Group, and subsequently to produce and sell clean energy.


As for the company regulations, Google has developed a very detailed sustainability policy and sees the clear plan for the future steps towards the better future. Thus, the internet giant set a goal to run its data centers and company campuses on 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030.


Google states that people’s well-being is the company’s priority, that is why it is trying to take care of its each and every user. As we can see, lots of Google sustainable solutions are very practical and directly applies to the person using Google services. The goal of Google is to help its users live, travel and shop more sustainably.


The company is also improving Google Maps APP and make it easier for the commuters to find hybrid and electric vehicle options and working on navigation for cyclists in over 300 cities around the globe.


Besides public, Google is trying to provide its clients with the features that can contribute to greener development. One of the best examples here is the cloud service. The company helps businesses find the cleaner locations for their Google Cloud resources. Thanks to that initiative, Google Cloud is considered to be one of the greenest in the world.




Meta/Facebook

In 2020, Facebook declared in its sustainability report that the company has achieved net zero emissions in operations and reduced emissions by 94 percent.


One of the main sustainable programs of Facebook is investment in renewable energy, at the same time being the biggest buyer of the renewables in the world.

The company is participating in a range of carbon removal projects, such as forestry programs in Africa and South America. These two projects are having a profound impact: as a result, 145,000 metric tons of carbon were removed from the atmosphere.


Swans are definitely enjoying the warm water of the Danish Data Center


Another part of Facebook efforts is investing in wind farms and water-conservation projects in the places of the data centers’ locations. The brightest example is probably the Danish data center in Odense, the third largest city in Denmark. Facebook has managed to connect the data center to the local district heating system of the city. The brilliant idea of Facebook now keeps more than 70,000 Danish homes warm in the cold Scandinavian nights. As European media joke says, “every Facebook post warms a Dane”.



Apple

Just like Facebook, Apple claimed to become carbon neutral for its global operations last year and is planning to run neutral in supply by 2030.

Apple is very well-known for its work to improve the situation around the forestry industry in particular. As Apple highlights, this field is crucial for the company’s products and packaging to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable.



In April this year, Apple announced a first-of-its-kind carbon removal initiative, which is called Restore Fund and launched together in collaboration with Goldman Sachs and Conservation International. The mission of the Restore Fund efforts is to provide investments in clean forestry projects while generating a financial return for those invested. The initiative set a goal to reduce at carbon dioxide emissions by at least 1 million metric tons on an annual basis. That is the amount of fuel used by almost 200,000 cars.



Alibaba

Deforestation is a serious environmental problem in the northwestern parts of China, where the country’s biggest deserts are located. One of these deserts is Alashan Desert, which is gradually transforming into the steppe thanks to the small steps taken by the users of Alipay, an APP for online payments and transactions, owned by Ant Financial, a sub-company of Alibaba Group.


The care for the environment is turned into the game for Alipay’s platform users and this format indeed attracted millions of people to join the sustainability movement. For most of the users it seems fun and entertaining and not hard at all. Basically, user just need to use Alipay for the daily payments, like transportation, shopping, dining out in the restaurant, which is quite easy, as Alipay payments are accepted everywhere in China, which is making Alipay one of the two major payment systems in the country along with Tencent’s WeChat. For every purchase and transaction via Alipay the user gets the points which he/she can use to feed the digital chicken and thanks to that bonuses it grows. Once some certain level is achieved, these points can be donated to environmental organization working in Alashan desert.



Another form of Alipay “environmental game” is the digital tree planting which later can be become a real tree. The user just needs to send the application, fill out some brief information and Ant Financial will plant the tree in Alashan desert, giving it a number. Users can even visit their own trees when they travel to the desert to see how they are growing and changing the desert landscape.



Tencent

Tencent, being one of the most innovative tech companies in China and the world, is also contributing to sustainable future in many ways.

Tencent Conference, most known abroad as VooV Meeting, managed to reduce its carbon emissions by over 15 million tons since the time of its launch.

On September 7, the Publicity and Education Center of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the Green Inclusive Committee of the All-China Environmental Protection Federation released a quantitative research report on how online meetings help reduce carbon emissions in China. According to the report, the average amount of emissions reduced by every online meeting held via Tencent Conference was equivalent to the annual carbon sink generated by about 20 trees.



Tencent Meeting Platform


Tencent is also actively spreading the word about the pivotal role which carbon neutrality would play especially in the upcoming several years.


On August 25, WeChat Pay, Tencent Carbon Neutralization Lab and Tencent Financial Research Institute jointly launched a public activity - "Carbon neutralization Q&A" with the goal to attract more people to participate in the movement towards zero carbon future.



Official website of Tencent’s "Carbon neutralization Q&A" public knowledge initiative


The public welfare fund generated by users' daily questions was donated by WeChat Pay to Tencent Charity Foundation to support carbon-neutral projects such as planting trees, grassland and wetland protection.



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