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Are targets set always met? Or just… deleted?

If the rumours are true, and Google really is trying to take over the universe, then there is at least one reason to be cheerful: it looks as if the search engine giant is planning a solar-powered future. Since 2007, Google has been running a project called RE<C, which the aim of making renewable energy cheaper than coal.

RE<C is all about accelerating innovation in renewable energy, with the RE<C engineering team focusing its efforts on Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technologies. CSP plants use fields of mirrors or lenses to redirect the sun’s rays onto a heat-absorbing target, which then converts the heat into energy. One of the best known CSP plants is the Solúcar solar plant, located just outside Seville, Spain – and by all accounts, these towers are a pretty impressive sight.

Google’s findings:

As part of its research, Google designed a lighter-weight, lower-cost prototype reflecting mirror, tested an alternative heat-exchange system, and developed a range of software and hardware tools that would either improve the efficiency or lower the cost of the system as a whole. Google itself sums up its findings as:

  • Use smarter controls: smarter software controls can generate better performance at a lower cost.
  • Use air turbines – not steam turbines: Most CSP plants use the heat to vaporize water in order to drive a steam turbine. But this kind of system uses jets of water to cool the steam so that it turns back into water. But worldwide, the sunniest regions tend to have the least water. Google’s RE<C team found that using a turbine powered by super-heated air – instead of water – significantly online casino reduces water use and may reduce operating costs as well.
  • Optimize the whole system, not individual components: By focusing on the cost and quality of the system as a whole, Google tried to make cutbacks on some components, while compensating elsewhere to maintain performance.

Google has also invested in the IVANPAH CSP plant, out in the American desert

Google hands over the baton

Sadly, Google is only publishing its results because it is stopping the RE<C project. As to why, the company doesn’t really go into details. It simply states: “At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level.”

Best-in-class CSR reporting?

Maybe Google stopped RE<C because it didn’t lead to anything they could patent. Maybe it didn’t deliver the kinds of breakthroughs they were hoping for. Maybe we should just take them at their word – Google isn’t a research institute, after all. One thing that does seem like a breakthrough is the fact that they have actually announced the end of a CSR project – and published detailed reports on what the project achieved.

Silence = greenwashing

In our research here at RankaBrand, we see plenty of CSR projects that are launched with great fanfare – but are then never heard of again. Same goes for the targets brands set themselves for cutting carbon emissions or for improving supply chains. When the deadlines for meeting those targets start rolling around, we often get radio silence on whether they were met. Sometimes, all evidence of that target being set in the first place has been quietly removed…

Come on guys – we want to know what your CSR efforts actually achieve. Otherwise, it’s just greenwashing!

Make them talk!

These are a few of the brands that have published a target, or announced a new CSR project, only to remove all traces of these initiatives at a later date. Why not get in touch to ask them what kind of progress they’re making – and why they aren’t publishing regular updates.

  • Keen: removed their Code of Conduct from the website
  • Gsus: removed the information on their Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) membership from their website, eventhough the FWF claims the brand is a member (again)
  • Nokia: earlier this year Nokia reported that all new products met the Energy Star criteria, but this info has now disappeared from their website.

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