Is Carbon Offsetting Another Convenient Loophole for Big Tech Giant Google?

Surinder Singh Head

Google Carbon Offsetting – In September 2020, Google CEO Sundar Pichai dropped a highly questionable revelation that Google had been at carbon net-zero since 2007. The statement suggests they hit their net-zero target within just nine years of the company being founded.

On further inspection though, the numbers don’t hang together. Google seems to be more preoccupied with upholding an image of integrity to appease their vast customer base rather than being transparent about their actual carbon footprint.

Google is clearly greenwashing their operation with a strategically-worded PR document.

According to the PAS 2060 Standard for Carbon Neutrality, a company can claim to be carbon neutral if they offset their footprint with carbon credits. What this essentially means is that any carbon released by a company can be offset by the amount they invest in verified climate action projects with an equivalent carbon credit kick back.

Big tech companies like Google have much more to do before they can claim to be at net-zero.

Carbon offsetting is clearly a fallacy

Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Sustainability Program Lead Robin Bass made a very telling (not to mention conflicting) statement that:

“Carbon neutrality still allows for carbon emissions,” 

So when Google released a white paper stating they’d been carbon neutral since 2007 (by the PAS 2060 definition), it was because they’d: “partnered with more than 40 carbon offset projects to offset more than 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2s)”. Meaning they’d released around that much into the atmosphere already. 

And those greenhouse gas emissions keep on rising upwards regardless.

Carbon offsetting is clearly a fallacy when it comes to hitting net-zero targets. You can see why by the logic of how it works. The bottom line is that Google must answer for Scope 1, 2 and 3 – the company’s total carbon footprint. Not just the areas they feel proud of boasting about.

As of this moment the official Google commitment is noticeably lacking in any Scope 3. action. A true net-zero target for Google will fully encompass their Scope 3. emissions that according to their 2020 Environmental Report make up roughly 90% of their total emissions! 

Goolge is one of the largest, most profitable businesses on the planet!

Another key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is the food and drink sector. Agriculture and land use equates to 18.4% of the world’s total carbon release. However by comparison this sector is actually making more headway with its Scope 3. emissions.

On the 24th February 2021, the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) confirmed that its members have already managed a 55% reduction in emissions five years ahead of their target date. This includes their Scope 3. emissions.

Google is one of the largest and most profitable businesses on the planet with considerable cash reserves. They should be taking the lead by investing in the reduction of their Scope 3. emissions as well as providing fast and efficient support to their supply chains.

Yet there appears to be no action taken on this!

If lower margin food and beverage companies are making more headway with their carbon reductions then what’s Google’s excuse? 

Big tech companies like Google have much more to do before they can claim to be at net-zero.

We’d like to hear what you think in the comments below.

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