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- #8 World’s Best Employers 2020
- #5 Just Companies 2021
- #13 Global 2000 2020
- #4 Top 100 Digital Companies 2019
- #50 Top Regarded Companies 2019
- #186 Growth Champions 2018
- #79 World’s Most Innovative Companies 2018
- #11America’s Largest Public Companies 2018
CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER
- Alphabet’s renewable energy initiatives earned Google two 2018 Green Power Leadership Awards: one in International Market Development from the Center for Resource Solutions and one in Excellence in Green Power Use from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Report created by Maribel Sabino
Alphabet Inc. is an American multinational conglomerate headquartered in Mountain View, California. It was created through a restructuring of Google on October 2, 2015, and became the parent company of Google and several former Google subsidiaries.
Alphabet is a collection of companies, the largest being Google. Google’s core products—Android, Chrome, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps, Google Play, Search, and YouTube—each have more than 1 billion monthly active users.
They also offer a broad collection of cloud-based products and services, including G Suite business productivity apps like Docs, Drive, and Calendar and satellite mapping and analysis platforms like Google Earth and Google Earth Engine. In recent years they’ve expanded into consumer electronics with products including Chromecast, Google Home, Google Nest Hub, Google Pixel, and Google Pixelbook. Google is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alphabet Inc..
Google’s goal is to “develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible.” Google’s global headquarters are located in Mountain View, California, United States. They own and lease office and building space, as well as research and development sites, across more than 150 cities, primarily in North America, Europe, South America, and Asia, and they own and operate 15 data centers across four continents.
Company Sustainability Activity
Alphabet is committed to significantly improving the lives of as many people as possible.
As a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google is committed to advancing sustainability by unifying their practices, partnerships, and products around a single mission — to foster sustainability at scale. By organizing information about the planet, and making it actionable through technology, Google helps people make a more positive impact together.
Google does everything with the Earth in mind. Building on their leadership position as the world’s largest purchaser of renewable energy, the company continues to innovate ways to make their operations more sustainable, inspiring others to follow.
In their founding decade, Google became the first major company to be carbon neutral. In their second decade, Google was the first company to achieve 100% renewable energy by becoming the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. By 2030, they aim to be the first major company to operate carbon free.
Accelerate carbon free and circular
- Decouple business growth from growth of carbon intensity and material use
Empower with technology
- Tackle major sustainability problems and drive net positive impact using Google technologies, platforms, products, and services
Benefit people and places
- Share benefits with communities of their facilities, users, partners, and suppliers
LEADING AT GOOGLE
Operate on carbon-free energy 24/7 by 2030
- Decarbonize operations: Every year, Google answers trillions of search queries. Every minute, people upload over 500 hours of YouTube videos. Google’s mission to organize the world’s information demands significant processing power—which requires energy. The mission won’t change, but the way Google delivers on it must.
- Build the carbon-free energy economy: Driving more carbon-free energy will create thousands of jobs and positively impact the economy in regions where Google operates. By driving scale and helping to bring down technology costs, they can make clean energy more affordable for more people.
- Focus on local procurement and hourly matching: Google strives to source clean energy in every grid where Google operates and optimizes their consumption to achieve 24/7 carbon-free energy. The pace of progress and the technologies needed to achieve 24/7 carbon-free energy may look different from one region to another
- Leverage Google technology: Google will continue to develop and commercialize new software, such as Machine Learning tools and carbon-intelligent computing, that can help better match real-time carbon-free energy supply with energy demand. New approaches can accelerate innovation in energy technologies and systems.
- Diversify Google’s energy portfolio: Google is integrating new technologies, such as battery storage, into their portfolio. Google will also work to accelerate the deployment of next generation clean energy technologies. A diverse portfolio of carbon-free technologies is key to meeting their target
- Advocate for policy changes to decarbonize electricity grids: Google cannot achieve 24/7 carbon-free energy alone. Google is working with industry partners, utilities, and policymakers to accelerate the transition to decarbonized electricity grids. Ultimately, Google envisions a future in which everyone, everywhere, has access to affordable 24/7 carbon-free energy.
Immediately eliminate all legacy carbon emissions
- In 2007, Google committed to carbon neutrality. Google has met that commitment every year since by procuring high-quality carbon offsets.
- However, Google began operating in 1998, nine years before Google first became carbon neutral. For those early years, they were a much smaller company, but Google often reflects back on how formative this time was for their future. That history deserves to be included in their ambition to be the world’s first carbon-free company.
- Therefore, as of September 14, 2020, Google has neutralized their entire legacy carbon footprint since their founding.
- For this additional neutrality, Google procured high-quality carbon offsets and applied the same methodology used over the last 13 years.
- Google is now the first major company to be carbon neutral for its entire operating history.
Deploy $5.75 billion in sustainability bonds
- In August 2020, Google issued $5.75 billion in sustainability bonds, the largest green bond or sustainability bond by any company in history.
- Google’s sustainability bonds will support investment in both environmental and social initiatives including energy efficiency, clean energy, green buildings, clean transportation, circular economy and design, affordable housing, commitment to racial equity, and support for small businesses and COVID-19 response.
- Google believes that these investments benefit their communities, employees, and stakeholders, and are an important part of fulfilling their mission and goal of creating value over the long term.
- Sustainability bonds are an emerging asset class and they hope their transaction will help accelerate this new market. Google is encouraged that investor demand for their bonds was so strong that they were significantly oversubscribed.
Enable 5 GW of new carbon-free energy in manufacturing regions by 2030
- Google has committed to invest in and deploy 5 GW of new clean energy across their key supply chain regions (this includes Google’s previous commitments of renewable energy in their key manufacturing regions). This will result in global emissions avoidance equivalent to taking more than one million cars off the road each year.
- Investment is a scalable approach to drive system-level change, grid decarbonization, and enable greater access to carbon-free energy. This is especially impactful in markets where credible carbon-free energy procurement mechanisms do not exist and there is a shortage of available capital. Google’s 5 GW commitment is expected to result in more than $5 billion of investment in new wind, solar, and other clean energy and enabling technologies, driving sustainability benefits for everyone.
- Google is committed to directly reducing their own footprint by supporting their suppliers’ transition to carbon-free energy for their operations and adopting energy efficiency measures drawing on Google’s expertise in the areas of predictive analytics and Machine Learning, including helping them schedule energy-intensive activities and drive further energy efficiency across their operations. They expect that all these efforts will result in a significant reduction of their suppliers’ greenhouse gas emissions. Google utilizes Machine Learning developed in collaboration with DeepMind to analyze and control their data center cooling systems. Machine Learning is excellent at identifying and optimizing for energy savings across millions of data points from thousands of sensors.
- A Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center, delivering seven times the computing power per watt than it did five years ago. Google’s power usage effectiveness (PUE) has stayed at or below 1.12 since 2013, compared to the 2019 industry average of 1.67 PUE.
Help over 500 cities or local governments to reduce 1 gigaton of carbon emissions annually by 2030 and beyond
- City leaders and mayors across the world are setting ambitious renewable energy targets and are charting a course to green recovery. As part of their next decade of action, Google will help over 500 cities/local governments reduce 1 gigaton (Gt) of carbon emissions annually by 2030 and beyond—equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of a country the size of Japan (home to 126 million people).
- Google will expand their city data coverage globally and provide robust and trustworthy information to both help measure citywide emissions and map pathways to a carbon-free future.
- Accelerating emissions reductions by 2030 will require cities to make ambitious climate action plans and set bold renewable energy targets. It also demands shifting technical and financial resources from planning to implementation. At Google, they commit to supporting cities around the world as they make these bold changes.
- Empower city partners with insights→ To kick off the next decade of climate action, Google is launching data for over 3,000 local governments (including over a thousand EMEA localities) within the Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE). Google will enable more cities to measure and mitigate building and transport emissions, create renewable energy programs and policies, and enable green jobs. Google is also going to establish new global partnerships with GCoM, ICLEI, and Ironbark Sustainability to integrate EIE data into existing leading climate tools to reduce the time and costs for cities to create their climate action plans. They are committed to scaling these insights and extending partnerships over the next decade.
Remove carbon from the atmosphere with science-based tree planting and support the global restoration movement
- Protecting existing natural ecosystems, such as forests, is one of the most cost-effective and reliable ways to sequester carbon. However, Google also needs to restore degraded ecosystems and forests. Simply planting a tree is not the end goal. Species and site selection, planting configurations, land management, and long-term monitoring all need to be properly designed and managed for trees to reach maturity, restore ecosystems, and permanently store carbon. That’s why Google is launching a science-based reforestation program, starting with planting on degraded lands in California, Texas, Spain, and Australia.
- Google is supporting the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich to develop a global restoration platform in collaboration with a wide network of environmental organizations and scientists.
- The global restoration movement must no longer be limited by access and accuracy in ecological data. Google’s investments will work with the latest ecological models, and the outcomes will be fed back into open data models. This will allow others to benefit from this knowledge and will further improve accuracy over time.
- To further support this work, Google pledged $1 million in funding from Google.org to develop tools that will help increase the likelihood of success for ecosystem restoration projects around the world.
Support nonprofits and social enterprises by launching a €10 million Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate.
- Nonprofits, civil society organizations, and universities will play a critical role in mitigating the impacts of climate change and improving communities’ resilience to its effects.
- As countries across Europe continue to respond to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19, there is a clear opportunity for a green recovery. To support these efforts, Google will launch a Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate, with an open call for grant applications. Google commits €10 million to fund bold ideas that aim to use technology to accelerate Europe’s progress toward a greener, more resilient future. Selected organizations may receive up to €2 million in funding and customized support from the Google for Startups Accelerator to help bring their ideas to life.
- Google is seeking ideas that address increased access to or use of renewable energy, decarbonization of transportation, improvements to air quality, natural resource planning and protection, and circular economy and design.
- Google will prioritize the projects which clearly articulate the potential additional benefits of their positive impact on climate change, such as job creation and retention, improved health outcomes, and environmental justice.
Scale up Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning efficiency solutions for buildings, data centers, and facilities.
- Machine Learning reduced the energy used for cooling of Google data centers by 30%. Now, Google Cloud and DeepMind have developed an Industrial Adaptive Controls platform to deliver Machine Learning-enabled energy savings on a global scale, by autonomously controlling Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in commercial buildings, data centers, and industrial facilities.
- Google will make these solutions available to the largest industrial enterprises and Building Management software providers. These software providers collectively make up nearly 60% of the global large commercial building footprint and each of these enterprises manages tens to hundreds of thousands of commercial buildings. By helping to optimize their HVAC operations through Artificial Intelligence, they can improve their own efforts to reduce their energy and carbon impact.
Offer 1 billion people new ways to live more sustainably by 2022 via core products.
- Build features that connect individuals with information and sustainable options that will help them make informed choices and take environmental action in the aspects of their life that make the most sense for them.
- Offer new functionality to highlight sustainable choices that are beneficial to everyone, in particular those that help the shift to a circular economy and enjoy the benefits of carbon-free energy.
- Ensure that equity of access, user safety, and environmental justice are incorporated into new developments so that the carbon-free future truly is for everyone.
Designing efficient data centers
- Maintain or improve quarterly PUE at each Google data center, year over year. (Annual)
- Achieve Zero Waste to Landfill for global data center operations.
- Maintain ISO 50001 energy management system certification for all Google-owned data centers that meet certain operational milestones. (Annual)
- Triple purchases of renewable energy from 1.1 GW to 3.4 GW by 2025.
- Maintain carbon neutrality for operations. (Annual)
Creating sustainable workplaces
- Pursue third-party green or healthy-building certifications for office projects, such as LEED, WELL Building Standard, and Living Building Challenge. (Annual)
- Reduce metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per full-time employee (FTE) 50% by 2025 at Google’s office in New York City. (2025)
- Reduce single-occupancy vehicle commuting at the Bay Area headquarters to 45% of those commuting on any given day.
- Provide electric vehicle charging stations for 10% of total parking spaces at the Bay Area headquarters.
- 100% of Made by Google products launching in 2022 and every year after will include recycled materials.
- By 2023, Google Nest will install 1 million energy- and money-saving thermostats in homes that need them most.
LEADING AT GOOGLE
Carbon neutral since 2007
- In their first decade, Google became the first major carbon neutral company. Since 2007, everyone using their products has been able to do so safely in the knowledge that Google’s data centers have caused net zero carbon emissions for the planet. For 13 years, they have not wavered in that commitment, and Google is proud to have maintained carbon neutral operations. Their approach focused on three key levers: driving energy efficiency, procuring renewable energy, and purchasing high-quality carbon offsets for all the emissions that they can’t yet eliminate, like employee travel and commuting.
100% renewable energy since 2017
- Google is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world, and the only company of their size to match 100% of their annual operational electricity consumption with renewable energy for three consecutive years (2017—2019).
Cleanest, most energy-efficient hyperscale cloud services in the industry
- Because of their continued energy efficiency efforts, a Google data center is, on average, twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center. Compared to five years ago, they now deliver around seven times as much computing power with the same amount of electrical power. This, paired with matching 100% of electricity with renewable energy since 2017 and carbon neutral commitment, makes the hyperscale cloud the cleanest in the industry.
Leading on sustainable workplaces
- Google has 13 million square feet of LEED-certified office spaces. They are also working to mitigate carbon emissions related to business travel and commuting, and promoting the use of electric vehicles and bicycles. In 2018, by using Google shuttles in the San Francisco Bay Area, Google saved 40,000+ metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions—equivalent to taking 8,760 cars off the road every work day.
Investing in renewable energy around the world
- Since 2010, Google has made commitments to invest nearly $2.7 billion in renewable energy projects with an expected total combined capacity of approximately 4.6 GW. Most recently, their investments have focused on working toward a world where everyone has access to renewable energy, including their suppliers and their communities. Google is committed to investing $150 million in key manufacturing regions. This investment commitment, with their partners, aims to catalyze roughly $1.5 billion of new capital into renewable energy. With these investments, they expect to help generate renewable energy that’s equivalent to the amount of electricity used to manufacture all of Google consumer hardware products.
Enabling carbon free cities
- Help over 500 cities or local governments to reduce 1 gigaton of carbon emissions annually by 2030 and beyond.
- Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE), created in collaboration with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), is an online and freely accessible tool based on proprietary Google data that has enabled over 100 cities to measure emissions, set reduction goals, and take informed action. EIE helps reduce the time and money spent on conducting emission measurement so that cities can accelerate climate action planning. Today, Google is seeing several local governments like Kyoto, Japan; Houston and Dallas, Texas; and Orange County, Florida in the US use EIE, to support bold climate action plans and renewable energy targets.
- To further accelerate climate action, last year, Google committed $4 million in Google.org funding to create the ICLEI Action Fund to help nonprofits and civil society use data to drive climate action. Organizations across Europe, Mexico, and South America submitted proposals. Grantees include the Centre for Sustainable Energy in Birmingham which will establish an open-source, citywide energy dataset, along with tools to model decarbonization options for buildings in the city and other interventions. In Hamburg, HafenCity University will incorporate data from the Environmental Insights Explorer and other sources into a tool to help the City of Hamburg identify spaces and districts that can be used as urban testbeds for prototyping energy innovations.
- Google has mapped air quality at street level in cities for over seven years, using specially equipped Street View cars in cities like Oakland, Copenhagen, and London. By providing cities with this information, Google is helping make the invisible visible and accelerating critical efforts to transition to healthier, more sustainable urban environments.
Improving data for forests
- Remove carbon from the atmosphere with science-based tree planting and support the global restoration movement.
- First prototyped in 2009, Google Earth Engine is a platform that has transformed the practice of forest monitoring, enabling conservationists to raise awareness of deforestation with accurate and timely alerts. By offering free support to tropical nations and partnering with Global Forest Watch, Earth Engine has revealed previously unknown deforestation hotspots in near real time. This work provides insights to international climate convening, supports affected communities, and helps corporations measure up to their sustainability promises.
Reduced environmental impact through cloud
- Google Cloud provides organizations with infrastructure, platform capabilities, and industry-specific solutions to run their business. As the pace of digital transformation has accelerated, organizations are migrating infrastructure and applications to the cloud to achieve cost efficiencies, improve performance, and reduce environmental impact. As a result of their long-standing commitments to sustainability, Google Cloud customers benefit from zero operational carbon footprint associated with running their workloads on infrastructure. For customers like Etsy, Spotify, and PayPal, migrating to Google Cloud helps accelerate progress toward their own sustainability targets.
- For organizations working to improve the environmental impact of their operations, Google Cloud technologies can help them innovate. For instance, Carrefour created a new solution with BigQuery to analyze product demand at grocers and optimize supply to reduce food waste. At the Zoological Society of London, which monitors biodiversity in over 50 countries across the globe, teams are using Cloud AutoML to analyze camera trap images and make faster decisions on conservation efforts. Gringgo Trash Tech, a start-up tackling urban waste and ocean plastic in Asia, built their mobile application using Google Cloud to help collectors identify and value trash for pickup. These are just a few examples of the many organizations leveraging Google Cloud technology to do more for the planet.
Nest thermostats enable energy savings
- Nest thermostat owners have saved over 50 billion kWh of energy—that’s enough energy to light up the planet for five days and amounts to $3 billion in energy bill savings. On average the Nest thermostat saves 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling in American homes. Based on typical energy costs, the company had estimated average savings of $131 to $145 a year per household.
Alternative low-carbon transit routes through Google Maps
- Google Maps provides more than one billion kilometers (621 million miles) of alternative, low-carbon transit options each day. Additionally, electric vehicle charging stations are integrated directly into Google Maps globally, as well as bike sharing locations and availability in cities around the world.
Estimate home solar potential with Project Sunroof
- Project Sunroof drives consumer awareness of the benefits of home solar. The service also makes it easy for interested homeowners to connect with solar providers in their area.
- Since 2015, Project Sunroof has mapped more than 107 million rooftops in 21,500 cities around the world for their potential to save money and cut carbon.
Sustainability content on YouTube
- YouTube has become a central platform for sustainability content spanning topics, countries, and languages. For example, videos with “sustainable fashion”, “sustainable clothing”, or “sustainable haul”, in the title were viewed over 25 million times in 2019 alone. People are using the platform to take action: in 2019, #TeamTrees raised over 20 million dollars in a matter of months to meet its goal of planting 20 million trees.
- ISO 50001 certification: Alphabet maintained ISO 50001 (energy management) certification for 12 of their 15 Google-owned and -operated data centers globally, which together represented 91% of their IT energy use.
- 13 million square feet LEED-certified: Over 1.2 million square meters (13 million square feet) of Google office facilities have achieved LEED certification.
- 28% LEED Platinum: 28% of their LEED-certified square footage has achieved a Platinum rating and 57% a Gold rating.
- WELL Building Standard
- Living Building Challenge
- UL 110
- IEEE 1680.1
- Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT): EPEAT Gold registration for all current models of the Pixel 3 phone
- ENERGY STAR® certification: 2018 Google Pixelbook, Nest Learning Thermostat
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
United Nations SDGs Compliance
The Impakter Index team aligns current company-wide sustainability initiatives with the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the following section.
- Google remains committed to ensuring that everyone who makes their products or provides them with services works in a healthy and safe environment. In accordance with their Supplier Code of Conduct, Google’s suppliers are expected to maintain safe and healthy workplaces that comply with all applicable laws and to implement a management system to identify and resolve related issues
- In collaboration with nonprofit, academic, technical, and community partners, Google’s initial investments have focused on solar energy projects in the DRC, where only 9% of the nation has access to electricity.
- The Congo Power team completed four projects in 2020 and has also added eight new projects to the pipeline. Google has also expanded their focus to include conservation areas and national parks that are of vital importance to the Congolese and the planet.
- That’s why Google has made a commitment to add 5 gigawatts (GW) of new clean energy and enable infrastructure across key supply chain manufacturing regions. Once online, this will avoid the global GHG emissions equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road each year. Investment in renewable capacity is a scalable approach to creating system-level change, driving grid decarbonization, and enabling greater access to carbon-free energy.
- Google is taking proactive measures to manage the social and environmental impacts associated with the sourcing and extraction of raw materials for consumer devices and data center equipment. This includes sourcing minerals for electronics—specifically tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold—exclusively from mines that aren’t financing armed conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and other high-risk locations.
- Google launched their Conflict Minerals program in 2012 to improve transparency and develop conflict-free sources of these materials.
Secondary SDGS: 10, 11, 13
- Google is launching investment initiatives in select communities to enhance local infrastructure and empower people to pursue alternative livelihoods
Alphabet Inc., is committed to significantly improving the lives of as many people as possible through their companies, the largest being Google.
As a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google is committed to advancing sustainability, becoming the first major company to be carbon neutral, and the first company to achieve 100% renewable energy by becoming the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy.
Google’s commitments towards incorporating sustainability throughout their business model continues in their goal to be the first major company to operate carbon free by 2030.
In addition to making considerable progress in their targets to operate as a carbon neutral company, investing in sustainability bonds, and enabling cities and partners, Google has obtained numerous sustainability-related certificates, such as EnergyStar, LEED, ISO, WELL Building standards and many more. Alphabet holds few awards and listings.
As a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google does not comply with many of the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). However, their initiatives do seem to align with several UN SDGs––the reporting is not explicit.
Google’s efforts to be a leader in sustainability is noteworthy. For these reasons, Alphabet has been rated a B.
Analyst Outlook: Neutral
Alphabet, a holding company of Google, has made strides in incorporating sustainability throughout Google. Google would benefit from implementing specific targets that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
- Google formally launched their Supplier Responsibility program in 2012. In 2017, they published their first report, which outlined Google’s framework, tools, and key performance metrics. This report maintains the core structure of past reports while highlighting several key 2019 projects across their supplier network that help illustrate their program’s successes, challenges, and aspirations.
- In 2017, Google began incorporating substances from Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) into their Restricted Substances Specification for consumer hardware.
- Google is committed to building an energy-efficient, low-carbon supply chain that makes smart use of the earth’s resources, protects ecosystems, and helps lead the fight against climate change. This starts with areas where they can make an immediate and long-term impact, such as helping their suppliers adopt high-quality energy-efficiency measures (EEMs); improve their environmental performance; and integrate inclusivity, climate resilience, water stewardship, and circular design into their supply chain.
- CDP supply chain
- In accordance with Google’s five-year sustainability strategy, Google has designed this Sustainability Bond Framework (the “Framework”) under which Google may issue, from time to time, certain bonds or related debt instruments with net proceeds that they intend to allocate to finance one or more projects that they believe may have environmental and/or societal benefits (any such bonds, a “Sustainability Bond”)
- Eligible Projects are investments and expenditures made by us or any of Alphabet’s subsidiaries beginning with the issuance date of any Sustainability Bonds, or in the 24 months prior to any such issuance, in eligible green projects and/or eligible social projects (as defined herein) and aligned with the four core components of both the Green Bond Principles, 2018, and Social Bond Principles, 2020, collectively known as “The Principles,” which recommend transparency and disclosure and promote integrity with respect to “sustainable” bonds, and in accordance with the Sustainability Bond Guidelines, 2018, (the “SBG”) all of which are administered by the International Capital Markets Association.