Intel, Being ‘Green’ and Environmental Impact

I’ve been enjoying the posts by Dave Stangis over on the CSR@Intel blog. In particular, I really resonated with his post “What Exactly Is the Social Responsibility of Global Corporations?”, and “The color of money….maybe it’s not so tough to be green.”. Check out the blog if you haven’t, its another good place to understand what’s going on as big companies, and in particular, big tech companies like Sun and Intel reason through the Eco and CSR issues.

One place I’d like to differ with Dave is on his use of the word ‘green’. Is ‘green’ a state of mind, good intentions, or is it a result of actions? Dave says that Intel has been green for years, but that statement only makes sense if you use the first two definitions. Intel’s carbon footprint is at the end of this article, and its not small. (Kudos to them for being one of the early reporters through the Carbon Disclosure Project, ours is submitted and will show up when the publish the CDP5 report.)

Maybe we’re being too conservative, but at Sun we’ve decided to not use the word ‘green’ when referring to ourselves. We’re not green. Our products and operations use lots of energy (255,000 tons of CO2 from our US operations, lots more from our products), we ship lots of lead in our products (solder), etc etc. We are, however, making big improvements throughout the company, so I will say we’re ‘greener’, but ‘green’? No way, not yet.

Speaking of big tech companies, the article above noted that Google won’t disclose their CO2 footprint. So lets guess! After polling lots of people (no insider knowledge among them), the consensus is that Google’s datacenters are in the 500MW to 1GW range. Using the US average for CO2 emissions from electricity, that would put them in the 3M to 6M tons/year range. That puts it in the range of Intel and 25% to 50% of GE, who’s 13 times bigger in revenue. Interesting…