CSR and Sustainability in the Technology Industry

   CSR and Sustainability in the Technology Industry: Case of Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel and IBM.

CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility signifies the relationship between businesses and the society. Businesses have a very important relationship with the society. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that grows stronger when businesses start investing in the betterment of society and the environment.  There are several benefits of investing in CSR and sustainability. Businesses are not here just for profits but also to become good corporate citizens and help the society progress. The benefits of investing in CSR are many. On the one hand, it helps the society and on the other, it makes the image of the investing brands better. However, brands are not investing in CSR or sustainability just for the purpose of marketing or building a brand image.

By giving back to the society, they are strengthening their own position. However, no one is better equipped than these big brands to care for the environment. Billions of dollars invested in environmental protection are good for the planets future.  It is not just the business with a high carbon footprint but those with a low environmental impact too are investing in CSR and sustainability. The tech industry is among the ones leading the way in terms of CSR and sustainability. Here is a look at how the tech giants of the world are handling CSR and sustainability and how the other brands and industries can learn from them.  The four tech giants Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple have invested billions in sustainability and Corporate Social responsibility and are giving back to the environment and community.

                                        CSR and sustainability efforts at Google:

Environmental responsibility is a core value that has been a part of Google’s culture since the beginning.  The company has remained carbon neutral since 2007.  The Geo team at Google is building a living breathing dashboard for the planet using cloud computing and machine learning. In 2017, it will reach its target of 100% renewable energy for its global business operations. Some of the key highlights where Google has achieved better results from its CSR and sustainability efforts are following.

By designing more efficient data centers Google has been able to achieve higher energy efficiency and reduce its energy consumption and costs. A Google data center uses just half of the energy consumed by a regular data center.  Now, Google can deliver 3.5 times computing power computing power compared to as much it could five years ago  with the same amount of electrical power. Six of Google’s data centers have been able to achieve 100% landfill diversion which means diverting waste from the landfills. One of these data centers has even achieved zero waste to the landfills. 52% of the components that Google used to upgrade machines at its data centers in 2015 were refurbished inventory. Its carbon intensity per revenue and per full time equivalent employee both saw a decline of more than 50% from 2009 to 2015.  It has also committed to invest $2.5 Billion of amount in renewable energy projects that have a total combined capacity of 3.7 GW.

Google has invested in other areas too like creating sustainable workplaces and empowering users through technology. The LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has been achieved by 9.2 million square feet of Google offices of which 31% achieved a platinum rating and 58% achieved a gold rating. Google’s Forest Watch monitors the tropical rain forests and provides near real time reports regarding the loss of forest cover. Project Sunroof has helped more than 2 million users make informed decisions about solar panel installations. Businesses that have switched to the G Suite products have been able to reduce IT energy use and carbon emissions by 65 to 85%.

Gmail too helps cut emissions impact by as much as 98% compared to running email on the local servers. In this way, Google has made a large investment in CSR and sustainability. It has made efforts to protect the earth’s forest cover and to help users reduce their carbon footprint. Apart from saving on energy consumption and building technologies that help others do so, it has invested in renewable energy to achieve its target of 100% renewable energy by this year. Google is an industry leader and there is lot for other brands to learn from Google.

 

                                    CSR and Sustainability at Amazon

Amazon too takes CSR and sustainability seriously. The brand has invested in several areas including a cleaner future for the planet, renewable energy, sustainable operations and packaging, reducing global carbon footprint and on engaging the community for a better environmental future. Amazon has also done exceptional work like Google in several areas. Most notably it as invested in cultivating solar and wind energy to benefit the society. The wind energy farm established by Amazon in Texas is its largest wind farm till date. This wind farm will generate one million megawatt of energy every year that has the ability to power 90,000 homes every year.

Each of these wind turbines is equal to a 30 storey building in height and has the blade diameter more than twice the wingspan of a Boeing 787. Amazon has also taken firm steps in the direction of solar energy. It has set a target of hosting solar energy systems at 50 of its fulfilment network buildings by the year 2020. 15 of these facilities in US will host solar energy systems at their rooftop with a capacity to generate 41 megawatts power. The four technology giants Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft jointly filed a legal brief to support the continued implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Apart from these, Amazon has invested in environment and community in other ways too.

The Amazon Web Services is committed in the long term to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for its global infrastructure footprint. Across the entire organization, Amazon is working to improve the environmental best practices. Moreover, the ecommerce giant .is making continuous improvements in packaging sustainability across the entire supply chain starting from its own packaging and operations. Its sustainability initiatives span its entire business from retail to cloud computing. In its office facilities and fulfilment centers too, the brand has focused on sustainable design. It has struck industry partnerships and collaborated with other businesses and brands to enhance the effect of its sustainability efforts. Amazon works to engage the community too through its efforts.

As a part of its CSR strategy, the brand ensures that it respects every worker’s rights. It ensures that down its own operations as well as throughout its supply chain, the workers’ rights are respected. It also conducts regular due diligence to ensure that its products are being made in an ethical and lawful manner. In this way, Amazon has focused and invested extensively in CSR and sustainability. The reason is not just to be energy efficient but also to make a positive impression on the society and have a positive impact on the environment.

CSR and Sustainability at Microsoft:

Microsoft too like the other three technology giants is a leader in terms of sustainability and CSR. This year in July it launched a new program designed for accelerated use of AI for environmental protection.  Microsoft has focussed its sustainability efforts in five major areas where it believes it can have the best impact – carbon, energy, water, ecosystems, and circular economy.  Apart from working to reduce the environmental impact within its own operations, the brand also collaborates with partners to take advantage of technology for environmental protection.   To achieve carbon neutrality, the brand improved its operational efficiency, bought clean energy and also invested in carbon offset community projects. It uses its own internal sustainability fee to fund its carbon neutrality commitment as well as for its environmental innovation fee.

This sustainability fee comes from charging its business groups for their emissions from electricity and air travel. Apart from using digital technology to reduce the carbon emissions in its supply chain operations, the brand also discloses its carbon emissions and its approach to climate change every year. Microsoft has also committed to use 50% of energy from renewable energy sources in its data centers and campus by the year 2018. It also plans to continue growing this target and to have met the 60% target by 2018. It works to make green and clean energy more accessible and affordable. Microsoft supports the global clean energy transition and also backs environment friendly policies. The company also focuses on water management and discloses its annual water consumption in an annual report. Microsoft has partnered companies like Ecolab and technology innovations like the Water Monetizer which is available for free use to the public, to address its water related risks.

Another important focus area for the technology giant is Ecosystem. For the protection of the ecosystem of the communities in which the brand operates, it has done something exceptional. The brand has brought AI and cloud technology together with environmental science and programmatic resources for empowering people and communities as well as organizations to solve the environmental challenges related to water, agriculture, biodiversity and climate change. Waste reduction is also an important focus area at Microsoft. Its Puget Sound Campus is zero waste certified. The brand is also working for reduction in the overall waste level and to divert at least 90% of its operational waste from the landfills. Its products, operations and buildings are designed in a manner as to be more resource efficient and productive. The brand is also a member of over 150 recycling programs that covers electronics, battery and packaging.  In this way, you can see how intense focus Microsoft has placed on environment, sustainability and CSR and works to help community ad environment as well as to grow more operationally efficient in terms of energy use.

CSR and Sustainability at Apple:

  Apple, like the other three giants focuses heavily on Sustainability. Apart from its own manufacturing, it is also focusing on eliminating carbon footprint down its supply chain. Apple’s target is to power its facilities with 100% clean energy. 96% of the energy it used at its facilities came from renewable sources.  These facilities include Apple’s offices, data centers, retail stores, as well as its product distribution centers. In order to reduce the brand’s carbon footprint, it designs each generation of its products to be as energy efficient as possible.  The brand is constantly pushing its manufacturing partners to be a part of its fight against climate change. Seven of its major supply chain partners have pledged to power their entire Apple production with renewable energy by next year. Its new corporate campus, which has been named Apple Park is on track to become the largest LEED Platinum certified building in North America.

The brand is also moving fast forward towards realizing its commitment of bringing 4 Gigawatts of renewable energy online by 2020. This is an important step towards reducing its manufacturing carbon footprint. Its comprehensive carbon footprint which includes its suppliers, millions of customers and millions of devices, equalled 29.5 million metric tonnes which was a reduction of around 9 million metric tonnes compared to the year before. 77% of Apple’s carbon footprint comes from manufacturing. To reduce this footprint, the brand is sourcing lower carbon materials and partnering suppliers around the world to help them switch to renewable energy.

The Apple Park in Cupertino is powered by 100% renewable energy of which 75% is produced onsite. It is also on track to being the greenest corporate headquarters on the planet. The brand also invests in waste management to reduce its carbon footprint. It is committed to ensuring that all the waste it produces is recycled, reused, composted, or converted into energy. Apple has seen great success in this area by collaborating with local governments, recyclers and several Apple teams. The brand also takes accountability of every drop of water it uses. It also focuses on removing toxins or toxic materials from its products, which are reduced or removed when they are identified. In this way, Apple like the other three technology giants is also heavily invested in environmental protection and sustainability.

IBM CSR and Sustainability

IBM’s approach to CSR is a reflection of its business that includes applied technology, continuous transformation and sustainable change. One key focus area is the engagement of stakeholders from customers and communities to employees. To achieve its purpose it promotes cross sector collaboration that includes working closely with public and private sector organizations, including local, regional and national governments, non profit organizations as well as universities, research organizations and school systems.  The brand also engages with highly qualified public and civic entities that are committed to finding solutions that can help the community. IBM has invested in learning around the world to prepare the workforce of tomorrow. It is working in tandem with educators and other important stakeholders to create innovative technologies and education models that can ready people for the opportunities available in the 21st century.

The P-Tech 9-14 school model created by IBM in collaboration with New York Public Schools and The City University of New York has been successful at reinventing high school education and improving college completion rates dramatically. Teacher Advisor and Teachers Try Science are similar innovative models that are built by IBM to make the current model of education more effective and help teachers make learning more engaging and productive.  It is also helping military veterans through Veteran Employment Accelerator Impact Grant program which provides training to fill skills gap and help the veterans find employment. IBM has also invested in comprehensive environmental programs whose effectiveness is boosted by bringing together a variety of organizations like governments, NGOs and several leading companies. In 2016, it became a founding member of SMARTer 2030 Action Coalition, that is devoted to furthering the cause of advancing a low carbon economy. The water challenge is also a big problem facing the global society.

IBM has joined the US Water partnership to address this issue, whose mission is to mobilize resources and technologies to address the water challenge.  Apart from these things, IBM has also joined the Wildlife Habitat Council to promote the conservation and management of wildlife habitat. The company has also won several rewards for its contributions in the areas of HR, supply chain, CSR, environment and water management.  It has set goals to reduce its dependence on non renewable energy sources. The brand plans to achieve annual energy conservations savings of 3.5% of its total energy use. It has also set a goal of purchasing 20% of its electricity consumption by 2020 from renewable sources. Other areas where IBM has focused to reduce its environment footprint include CO emissions reduction, product energy efficiency and non hazardous waste recycling. In this way, you can see that IBM is also doing its best for environmental protection and energy conservation and to help the world community advance through better opportunities in the area of education.

Intel CSR and Sustainability:

Intel, like the other major technological companies is also concerned for the environment and the community and invests in several important areas for a better impact on society and environment.  Like the previously discussed brands it is also leveraging technology for a better tomorrow.  Some of the most important focus areas where Intel’s opportunities and .risks are hidden as highlighted in its CSR report are – climate change, privacy and data security, workforce talent and diversity, water use, technology access and inclusion, human rights and supply chain responsibility. A large part of the world’s population is now living in the megacities and the air quality of these cities remains poor because of the level of pollution there. In such a situation, it has become critical to monitor the air quality of these cities. Bosch has created a Micro Climate Monitoring System (MCMS) using Intel’s IoT technology that can help manage air quality around the world in previously impossible ways.

Apart from these, Intel has invested in several other areas too through which cities around the world can be made smarter and safer. It has invested in innovative technologies in both transportation and lighting for making life in the cities safer and better. The situation of pollution is particularly making lives difficult in the developing nations. Intel has taken an important step in the direction of addressing the challenges plaguing the developing nations through its Grameen Intel Social Business initiative.  This initiative has brought a unique wearable device in the shape of a bangle with an LED, which flashes when the level of carbon mono oxide gets unsafe indoors. In the rural areas of the developing nations, women still cook food indoors using wood or other sources that release carbon mono oxide.

Such devices can be of major help for the poor families and prevent millions of deaths happening each year around the world. Intel has set ambitious goals related to sustainability and CSR in various areas for 2017 and beyond. Its target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, grow the use of onsite alternative energy, continue using 100% green power in US operations, achieving energy savings of 4 billion kWh from 2012 to 2020, reducing water use, achieving zero hazardous waste to the landfills and similar more things that can reduce its impact on the environment. The brand has also set targets for its suppliers and is working to ensure a sustainable supply chain and accountable and ethical suppliers. Apart from these, focus is on increasing worker diversity in its workforce and improving the condition of women and underrepresented minorities in US. The brand has started a ‘She Will Connect’ program through which it plans to reach out to 5 million women in Sub Saharan Africa by the year 2020. In this way, Intel has also taken some concrete steps for the protection of the environment and for the empowerment of society and particularly the women in developing and underdeveloped areas.

Conclusion:

CSR and sustainability are two important focus areas for the big brands, just as important as their business strategy. There are benefits of investing in these two areas for both the business brands and the community. While the businesses stand to gain in the form of better reputation and image and reduced operational costs, the community is also advancing as businesses invest in its growth and empowerment. In case of the technology industry, it has invested billions in environment and community. Big brands like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon have invested billions in renewable energy, waste reduction, water management, education for masses and similar other areas. These brands have also taken major steps in stakeholder engagement, both internal and external.

Sustainability is not just a passing fad but a serious affair in which millions of businesses are investing worldwide. They stand to earn a twofold gain from it. It has helped them reduce costs, minimize wastes and earn a positive reputation for being environment friendly. No one is in a better position than these large technology corporations to care for the planet. While on the one hand they have the latest technology at their dispense which they can use to make life better for millions, on the other hand they can form large collaborations and coalitions that  can help guide the world towards a better tomorrow.   While the four technology giants are leading in this area, the others are also following to make a difference through investment in environment and ecosystem. Several of these initiatives have started bearing results and these brands and the community have started realizing and recognizing the benefits that come from these efforts. While water is a critical resource and its management is essential, investing in renewable energy is just as critical.

Sources:

https://environment.google/projects/environmental-report-2016/

https://www.amazon.com/p/feature/wnsdvqqghme982o

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/about/corporate-responsibility/environmental-sustainability

https://images.apple.com/environment/pdf/Apple_Environmental_Responsibility_Report_2017.pdf

https://www.ibm.com/ibm/responsibility/2016/pdf/IBM-2016-CRReport.pdf

http://csrreportbuilder.intel.com/PDFfiles/CSR-2016_Full-Report.pdf

 

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