Thirty-eight of the world's 150 leading technology companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet and Facebook, are on track to become carbon neutral by 2030, according to the International Telecommunication Union and the World Benchmarking Alliance.
If other digital companies accelerate their journey towards carbon neutrality, it could make information and communication technology (ICT) one of the greenest sectors of the global economy, the ITU and WBA said in a report.
“Tech companies are an essential part of the global economy," said Houlin Zhao, secretary general of UN-backed internet and telecoms agency ITU.
“This new study serves as a road map to drive all these companies towards net-zero emissions. This is the way to ensure today's digital transformation accelerates climate action — and to do so before it's too late."
The report documents the greenhouse gas emissions and energy use of 150 tech companies. Operational greenhouse gas emissions among the 150 companies accounted for 239 million tonnes in 2020, only 0.8 per cent of the world total.
However, technology companies — defined as those that produce and sell ICT equipment, operate telecommunication networks and provide software and other information technology services, including data centres and cloud computing — have become “prominent in the race to eliminate harmful emissions”, the report said.
"Digital companies and their innovative nature are indispensable drivers of change to build a future that is not only technologically connected, but also fair and sustainable for both people and the planet,” said Gerbrand Haverkamp, WBA’s executive director.
“This report is testimony that digital companies can and must play a notable role in the race to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in solutions aligned to the Paris Agreement."
From renewable power purchases and investment in carbon capture to issuing green bonds, these companies are at the forefront of global greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
Digital companies accounted for seven of the top 10 largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy in 2020, responsible for almost half of the renewables purchased globally that year, the report found.
Corporate energy sourcing is a crucial factor as countries strive to cut their emissions agreed under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit the rise in average global temperatures at 1.5°C.
The 150 tech companies covered by the study consumed a combined 425 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2020, about 1.6 per cent of the world total, one third of which was renewable.