Greenpeace calls out tech giants for carbon footprint fumble

Net-zero promises or zero-net progress?

Greenpeace has savaged global electronics companies, claiming they are simply not doing enough with efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

A report [PDF] published by the environmental campaign group weighed up the decarbonization efforts of 11 of the biggest outfits in global electronics, and found them wanting.

Five of the major manufacturers – Intel, Foxconn, Chinese component maker Luxshare Precision, Samsung, and TSMC – actually increased their emissions during 2022 compared to 2020, according to Greenpeace, which says this could partly be attributed to rising production over the same period.

Some eight out of the 11 companies have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century, but none have undertaken to halve their emissions by 2030, the report points out. The latter is the minimum necessary to keep with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting to 1.5°C of warming.

Intel gets credit as the only major electronics supplier that has publicly pledged to transition to operating on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, a goal the company itself highlighted in its recently published Climate Transition Action Plan.

But, claims Greenpeace, the Santa Clara chipmaker continues to rely heavily on low-impact procurement methods – such as renewable energy certificates (RECs) – to achieve this goal.

According to financial analysts S&P Global, the downside of buying these certificates is that they don't necessarily encourage the production of new wind or solar farms. The energy supplied may also still come from fossil fuels on days when there is low wind or solar energy generation.

Using RECs "allows a company to say it has reduced its scope 2 emissions simply by writing a check, while it can continue to put out greenhouse gases as before," S&P's report says.

Taiwanese chip giant TSMC is acknowledged by Greenpeace for bringing forward its 100 percent renewable energy target from 2050 to 2040, while Samsung has stuck with plans to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. This is a deadline that is "too distant in the future to help avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change," says Greenpeace.

Samsung actually ranked bottom of all the chipmakers in the report due to its relatively slow timeline to transition to renewable energy, its lack of a 2030 emissions reduction target, as well as its heavy reliance on low-impact sourcing methods for its renewable electricity.

However, it was Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn, maker of Apple's iPhone and other products, which was shamed by Greenpeace for having the highest emissions and electricity consumption. The report claims that its renewable electricity usage as a proportion of its total consumption was just 8 percent during 2022, and the company's CO2 emissions were higher than those of Iceland during the same period.

A similar report [PDF] from Greenpeace last year criticized consumer electronics brands such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Sony for continuing to rely heavily on fossil fuels across their supply chains, despite having set ambitious renewable energy and climate targets for their own operations.

That 2022 report also found that Amazon, Microsoft, Google, HP, and Sony had set climate targets that included their supply chains, but had not set out pathways with which to achieve them.

Greenpeace says in the report that in order to stay within the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C, electronics suppliers need to hit 100 percent renewable energy across their supply chains by 2030. It also recommends they do this through high-impact sourcing methods such as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and direct investment in renewable energy.

"Brands like Apple and Microsoft should not promote their products as 'green,' when their supply chains are still powered by coal and gas," Greenpeace East Asia campaigner Xueying Wu said in a statement.

"It is absolutely feasible for every supplier in this ranking to achieve 100 percent renewable energy within the decade, but the first step is setting ambitious targets," Wu added. ®

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