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Facebook, Amazon Panned on Energy Management and Transparency

Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and other major internet firms are failing to adequately disclose their carbon footprint, according to a report by independent analyst Verdantix.

The report, Carbon Strategy Benchmark: Internet Sector, finds that Akamai, Apple and eBay outpace their global competitors on energy efficiency enhancements and transparent disclosure of carbon emissions. Salesforce is also making positive steps by communicating GHG reductions from cloud services, the study says.

By contrast, Verdantix says, Amazon has rejected stakeholder requests for increased transparency on GHG emissions. Expedia and Chinese company Tencent are also carbon reporting “laggards,” the report said. Only 4 of the 14 firms in the study – Akamai, Apple, eBay and Google – disclose GHG emissions from their data centres on a global basis, Verdantix said. Google only joined that club last week, with the disclosure that it generated 1.46 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year.

And the analyst said that none of the 14 global internet giants covered in the report invest in assurance from a recognized, independent verifier of GHG emissions data such as DNV, KPMG or PwC, even though data centers now consume as much as three percent of total U.S. electricity.

The report assesses the carbon and energy strategies of the world’s 14 largest internet and social networking firms, including Chinese players Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent alongside Akamai, Amazon, Apple, eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Priceline, Salesforce and Yahoo!. Most of these need to adopt a more strategic approach to energy and carbon management, the report said.

Verdantix senior manager Janet Lin said that given their phenomenal growth rates, the 14 firms in the study cannot hope to deliver absolute carbon emissions reductions through efficiency measures. Instead, she said, they should track performance against intensity metrics such as Carbon Usage Effectiveness in data centres.

“Carbon management laggards should reduce brand risk by paying for assurance of their GHG inventory data,” Lin said, adding that Alibaba and Facebook should deploy energy management software to enhance energy cost control and facilitate GHG reporting.

“Due to their rapid growth and global prominence, internet and social networking firms such as Facebook and Google will be confronted by a barrage of energy and carbon emissions challenges,” Verdantix director, David Metcalfe said. “Big data centre users such as Amazon and Salesforce cannot ignore the closing jaws of mandatory carbon reporting indefinitely.”

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