Google, IBM, Other Tech Giants Underreport Carbon Footprint: Study

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According to research released Friday, large technology companies such as SAP, IBM, and Google are underreporting their greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the role of corporations in creating climate change is under investigation.

Inconsistencies were discovered in the way corporations declare their carbon footprint, a metric that is becoming increasingly relevant to investors, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications.

The study looked at so-called scope 3 emissions, which account for a substantial portion of corporate carbon footprints, such as business travel, staff commuting, and how firms’ products are used and were done by academics at the Technical University of Munich.

They looked at 56 companies in the computer industry and discovered that on average, half of their emissions were not disclosed.

Some firms, such as Google’s parent Alphabet, were found to be consistent in how they recorded their carbon footprint but removed some emissions that should have been tallied, according to Christian Stoll, one of the report’s authors.

Others, such as IBM, recorded their carbon footprint differently depending on who they were reporting to and left out emissions that should have been included.

Requests for comment were not immediately returned by Google or IBM. The authors offered suggestions on how businesses might enhance their emissions reporting.

Laura Draucker, senior manager of corporate greenhouse gas emissions at Ceres, a nonprofit business research group, agreed with the conclusion of the Nature report that firms’ emissions disclosure has to improve.

Draucker, who was not engaged in the study, stated, “However, we cannot wait for flawless data.” “Companies may utilize estimates and screening tools to identify climate risk hot spots along their value chain, and they can set goals and take action today to accomplish those goals — all while striving to improve data collection and quality.”

According to Ceres’ report, many of the top US corporations lack significant climate commitments.

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