Google is starting to throw its political weight around, beginning with plans announced on Tuesday to take a leading role in lobbying on environmental issues.

The company is looking to persuade politicians, energy companies and PC users to work together to reduce carbon emissions.

“We want to leverage our assets and influence the world beyond the computer,” said Urs Hölzle, senior vice-president of operations, at an event in Paris.

“We are going to argue in public to change attitudes on a number of things. The first one is energy standards.”

Google officials said executives would speak out on issues, such as the environment, in public and political forums.

Mr Hölzle said Google would have to lend its political support to causes rather than to individual politicians, as US law restricts company donations and support for political parties.

However, he noted that Google had already supported environmental legislation brought in last year by Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California.

Google also unveiled its own plans to become carbon neutral by the end of the year through measures such as increasing the efficiency of its energy-hungry data centres, and getting 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources.

The group is seeking to put pressure on its electricity suppliers to do the same, insisting that any power company wanting to supply Google must generate one-fifth of its electricity from renewables.

It will also use tools such as Google Earth to educate the public about climate change, and has co-founded Climate Savers Computing, an industry initiative that encourages people to use more efficient computers.

Google is the latest IT company to unveil eco-friendly measures. This month, Michael Dell, head of Dell, the computer manufacturer, was in Europe to publicise a green agenda, including requiring key suppliers to publish carbon emissions data or risk losing business.

In May, IBM announced it would invest $1bn in increasing its IT efficiency, mainly focusing on its datacentres. HP has announced plans to reduce energy use by 20 per cent in the next three years.

The IT industry accounts for 2 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and has a role to play in cutting back on greenhouse gases. However, some environmentalists have criticised the industry for focusing on emissions while not tackling other, more serious issues such as toxic landfill waste from discarded computers.

Google’s environmental message was part of a European charm offensive, launched at Google’s first European press day in Paris.

Google officials said the environmental agenda, which included an endorsement by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the celebrated French nature photographer, was deliberately unveiled in Europe.

Get alerts on when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Comments have not been enabled for this article.