Going Carbon Neutral: Google and Lego Lead the Way

Increasingly, businesses and organisations are realising that in order to remain competitive and to their increase market share they will have to do so in a low-emissions future by becoming carbon neutral.

Becoming carbon neutral means that an organisation effectively has a net zero carbon footprint. Any carbon dioxide it is responsible for releasing into the atmosphere in the course of its business operations is balanced by an equivalent amount sequestered or offset.

The ways in which organisations go about becoming carbon neutral can vary with some even taking it further and strive for 100% renewable energy. Essentially, however, an organisation must first measure its greenhouse gas emissions. From there it needs to take efforts to reduce them as much as possible, report their emissions on a regular basis and then provide compensation for those emissions the organisation is unable to avoid releasing into the earth’s atmosphere.

To support this process, and to encourage an increased number of organisations to become carbon neutral by the second half of the 21st century, the United Nations has established the Climate Neutral Now campaign. According to the campaign’s website, “All of us have a role to play in rapidly moving the planet toward a pathway that keeps global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.” It adds that “In order to make that future a reality, companies, governments and individuals must work together toward climate neutrality.”

Being carbon neutral can result in many different positive benefits for a company and are not purely limited to environmental ones. Climate Care reports that “Achieving Climate Neutral status is a process endorsed by the United Nations and is an obvious starting point for businesses that want to demonstrate best environmental practice and responsible business growth.”

As not every business is the same different factors will be of more importance or relevant to some businesses that others. This means that the strategies for becoming carbon neutral and offsetting carbon emissions should also vary from business to business. On this point, Climate Care states that “Setting out a business case for your organisation to offset climate emissions is similar to any other outsourcing decision – it pays to outsource emissions reductions where there is more cost effective or technically feasible than doing so in house.” Below, two case studies of successful international businesses – Google and the Lego Group – are provided to show how they have become climate neutral and the benefits they have accrued as a result of doing so.

Google has been carbon neutral since 2007 and in 2017 will reach 100% renewable energy for all of its operations including its data centres and offices. On why they have embarked on such a strategy Google states that “We tackle these projects because they reduce our company’s environmental impact, and also because they improve our bottom line. But mostly we do this stuff because it needs to be done and it’s the right thing to do.

The company has achieved this using different approaches ranging from installing renewable energy to creating markets for food that would otherwise be wasted to increasing the efficiency of existing products by using new technologies. To date, Google has invested an impressive $2.5 billion in renewable energy projects and are actively encouraging “Solar adoption by telling any homeowner how many watts of sunlight hit their roof per year.” Furthermore, Google’s two co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, built their first desks out of sawhorses and doors because they saw that as the most efficient use of resources. They also built the company’s first disk enclosure out of Lego bricks because they saw it as the best, cheapest and geekiest way to get more hard drives into less space.

Since the company’s founding, many of these early sustainability initiatives have been scaled up and spread internationally across its global network of offices, data centres and other resources. However, despite the impressive results achieved to date, Google is not content. It states that “Our ambitions don’t end at our own door. Climate change is real. We’re a global company, and our goal is to give everyone everywhere the tools and opportunities they need to play their own part in protecting the planet.”

Despite having a goal to become climate natural by the year 2020, EcoWatch recently reported that the Lego Group had achieved this feat three years early thanks to its 25 per cent stake in the Burbo Bank Extension offshore wind farm. In total, the Lego Group has now invested more than DKK 6 billion into renewable energy developments. It now means that the energy consumed at all Lego Group factories, stores and offices globally is now exceeded by the Group’s investments in renewable energy.

According to CleanTechnica, the wind farm, located in the United Kingdom’s Liverpool Bay, recently became operational and is a joint venture between DONG Energy, PKA and KIRKBI A/S, parent company of the Lego Group. Capable of producing 160 megawatts of renewable energy the offshore wind farm will also be supported by the installation of 20,000 solar panels on the roof of the Group’s factory in Jiaxing, China that will produce almost 6 gigawatts of electricity per year.

The Lego Group’s CEO, Bali Padda, is quoted by CleanTechnica as saying “We work to leave a positive impact on the planet and I am truly excited about the inauguration of the Burbo Bank Extension wind farm. This development means we have now reached the 100 percent renewable energy milestone three years ahead of target. Together with our partners, we intend to continue investing in renewable energy to help create a better future for the builders of tomorrow.”

To celebrate the achievement, Lego embarked on a series of initiatives. They officially broke the Guinness World Record for the construction of the largest Lego brick wind turbine measuring seven and a half metres in height and consisting of 146,000 bricks. The Group also enlisted its official Batman mascot to receive a recognition ceremony at an official ceremony held in the city centre of Liverpool.

Commenting on why the Lego Group has embarked on a path of climate neutrality and environmental sustainability it is evident that it has a deep concern for protecting the earth for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations. Group CEO Padda states “We see children as our role models and as we take action in reducing our environmental impact as a company, we will also continue to work to inspire children around the world by engaging them in environmental and social issues.”

Google and the Lego Group are not the only companies that have either achieved carbon neutrality, are working to exceed it or are actively working towards it. However, although they have become carbon neutral in different ways, they both show it is entirely and practically possible for large-scale, international organisations to become environmentally friendly in their business operations. Furthermore, they illustrate the business case for doing so and show that becoming carbon neutral should not necessarily be purely as an added expense but rather an investment in the future success and sustainability of the business.

[Cover Image: Flickr/4652 Paces]