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Greenwashing at Google: Big Tech’s Attempt to Become Carbon-Free

Updated: Mar 15

Environmental pledges made by tech corporation giants such as Microsoft, Apple, and even Meta may unintentionally mislead their users. Unfortunately, when we look beyond their sustainability departments, major corporate operations often compromise these misleadingly ambitious and aspirational climate goals.


Let’s take a closer look at Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL.O: In 2020, Google set the goal that by 2030, they would aim for carbon-free energy (CFE). At first glance, this seems worthy of praise. The details of the goal specify that Google will operate its data centers and campuses worldwide on entirely carbon-free energy 24/7. This was done to set the tone for the technology industry to make meaningful steps toward tackling climate change. They identified a three-pronged approach to accomplish this task:


Develop new transactional approaches to purchase 24/7 clean energy.


Support the commercialization of next-generation clean energy technologies while developing smart solutions for managing electricity demand.


Develop partnerships and advocate for policies that accelerate the decarbonization of electricity grids worldwide.


However, the CEO, Sundar Pichai, already describes the 24/7 CFE mission as a “stretch goal.” While this goal is worth some praise when compared to its peer tech corporations, it may have a negligible impact on global climate change.


Regardless, Google is coming up on its third anniversary since it set this CFE 24/7 benchmark for itself. Though the last pillar regarding “developing partnerships and advocating for policies that accelerate decarbonization of electrical grids” is regarded by Google as especially “critical,” their recent partnership with Aramco, an oil giant, has tainted both their image and mission.


Saudi Arabia has made it clear that its intentions are to prioritize oil as a central piece of its economy for the foreseeable future. The country has advocated against efforts toward a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels. Now, when you consider that Aramco is a government-controlled oil company, Google’s strategic collaboration with Aramco seems questionable at best. Although Google Cloud’s leader, Thomas Kurian, publicly denied working with the oil and gas division of Aramco, it soon announced that Google Cloud was a means of transport for Aramco’s methane gas.


Not only is Google’s goal limited in ambition, but its strategic partnerships with Aramco counteract any positive impact they claim to be committed to. Though they were set to lead tech corporations in the right direction, they are setting a dangerous precedent.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources

 

Biddle, S. (2023). Google greenwashes a dirty partnership with climate-destroying Saudi Aramco. 


Dave, P. (2020). Retrieved from 


Pichai, S. (2021). Retrieved from 


Tabuchi, H. (2022). Retrieved from 

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