Jan 29, 2020 - Technology

Big Tech goes green, but still can't escape climate pressure

An illustration of a green G Google sign being squeezed.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Big Tech is getting greener — but that’s not keeping it out of climate advocates’ crosshairs.

The state of play: Even as major tech companies announce new green ambitions — and evince existing ones — they're facing heightened pressure to walk the walk when it comes to their products and clients.

The big picture: New data shows that Google was the global leader in corporate renewable energy procurement last year, signing contracts for 2.7 gigawatts of capacity. The next three biggest buyers were Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, per a BloombergNEF report that underscores Big Tech's years-long push into renewables.

  • This month Microsoft also rolled out a suite of new policies — including a pledge to be carbon-negative by 2030 that encompasses its suppliers too.
  • Amazon toughened its climate plans and targets last September.

The other side: Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor, who heads the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, this week urged Google to curb false climate information on YouTube. She called for steps including...

  • Removing climate "denial" and "disinformation" from YouTube's recommendation algorithm.
  • No longer allowing users to monetize videos that "promote harmful misinformation and falsehoods" about climate.

Also this week, hundreds of Amazon employees, defying their communications rules, put their names on statements criticizing Amazon policies on climate (among other topics).

  • Amazon, Google and Microsoft all face attacks from both their own employees and outside critics — including Sen. Bernie Sanders — for offering sophisticated computing services tailored to help oil companies assess and extract resources.

The bottom line: Big Tech companies have some of the corporate world's most aggressive climate targets and programs. But this is hardly inoculating them against criticism.

Go deeper: Google and Amazon employees claim to face retribution for decrying corporate moves

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