Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

The internet v sustainability

internet logos

Alex Blackburne looks into recent positive announcements from Google and Facebook, and explains what other internet giants are doing to become more sustainable.

In the 1990s, the commercialisation of the internet sparked millions of innovative new ideas, strategies and techniques.

We were presented with search engines – a method of instantly searching the colossal global library that is the World Wide Web for a specific term or phrase – and social networking – which allows people to connect and keep in touch with family, friends and colleagues all over the planet.

Suddenly, for many, the internet’s ultimate purpose was revealed.

Into the 21st century, the web became the norm. We took it for granted. How could it have an environmental impact when it essentially doesn’t exist as actual matter?

Nevertheless, global companies – Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! et al – began to realise that their operations were becoming increasingly harmful.

In April this year, Greenpeace released a comprehensive report named How dirty is your data?. The report provided many of these companies with startling realisations over their energy usage.

Apple and Google were the first to take strides forward in becoming more sustainable, and now, Facebook has taken similar steps after almost two years of pressure from Greenpeace.

The environmental group ran a TV advert campaign called ‘Unfriend Coal’, which specifically picked on Facebook’s use of fossil fuels. The social networking site has clearly been affected by the damning, and has now pledged to power its operations using renewable energy.

In a joint statement from the two organisations, Facebook say it is “working in partnership with Greenpeace and others to create a world that is highly efficient and powered by clean and renewable energy”.

Facebook’s commitment to renewable energy raises the bar for other IT and cloud computing (8) companies such as Apple, IBM, Microsoft, and Twitter“, said Casey Harrell, senior IT analyst for Greenpeace International.

“The Facebook campaign proved that people all over the world want their social networks powered by renewable energy, and not by coal. Greenpeace will continue to measure, report and campaign on the sector’s progress to green the cloud.”

This announcement comes as Google, which recently scrapped its renewable energy research project in favour of implementation, has donated £7.5m to fight slave labour across the world.

The internet search giant will share the money across ten companies worldwide in a move that will see the company transcend many in the industry, if only in philanthropic terms.

As with the Facebook project, it is hoped that Google’s declaration will inspire similar companies to follow suit.

Meanwhile, micro-blogging site Twitter generates 10 terabytes (TB) of data every day (the New York Stock Exchange generates just 1TB in comparison), with half a million new users signing up daily.

Its place in society is assured, although it came out unfavourably in Greenpeace’s April report. It was given an F grade for all three categories – transparency, infrastructure siting and mitigation, with its reliance on fossil fuels cited as the reason for such a low mark.

Whereas Yahoo!, one of the most visited sites on the web, was scored considerably better than Twitter, with grades D, B and C for the three categories.

The power and influence of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo! is undeniable. But the steps taken so far by each are just the beginning.

The key to a sustainable future lies within renewable technologies.

You, yourself, can make a difference. Ask your financial adviser to tell you more about clean technology investment. If you don’t have one, fill in our online form. We will connect you to a specialist ethical adviser.

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