In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Google’s Environment Sustainability Report 2019 and it's Climate Change Response report for 2019.

The reports included environmental information, and data on energy, waste, water, greenhouse gas emissions and toxics. Google was thus felt to have a reasonable understanding of its environmental impacts.

There were many targets in the reports, however, most of them were vague, were past or had been achieved without new targets being set, or did not contain any baseline or information to show how much improvement they were aiming at. Only one really counted as a quantified target, which was "Triple our purchases of renewable energy from 1.1 GW to 3.4 GW by 2025."

Data for greenhouse gas emisssions for Scope 1-3 was said to be independently verified and a link was provided to a statement by Cameron Cole. However the rest of the report did not appear to be independently verified.

Overall Google received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for environmental reporting.

Reference:

2019 Environment report (13 May 2020)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed an article on Greenpeace's website which discussed the performance of Google, Amazon in Microsoft on climate change issues.

The report stated: "Since 2018, Google made a long-term commitment to power its data centers 24×7 with carbon-free energy, which helps to further phase out fossil fuels from its operations. This is why Google’s contracts with oil and gas companies like Total, Shell, Schlumberger, Chevron, and others make no sense. To be the true climate leader Google wants to be, it must cancel its AI contracts with oil and gas firms."

As a result of this criticism, Microsoft lost half a mark under the Climate Change category.

Reference:

Microsoft, Google, Amazon – Who’s the Biggest Climate Hypocrite? (2020)

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Greenpeace Report ‘Clicking Clean Virginia - The Dirty Energy Powering Data Center Alley’ dated February 2019.

The Clicking Clean reports benchmark global internet platforms and major data centre operators on their use of renewable and dirty energy within their data centres. According to the 2019 report 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic is claimed to pass through just one of Virginia’s counties, and dramatic expansion increases demand in coal and natural gas. Less than 5 percent of power generation in Virginia comes from renewable sources.

The report stated, “Since 2012, more than 20 major tech companies have committed to power their global operations with renewable energy.”

“Despite 100% renewable commitments that have had significant impact in driving renewables in other markets, Virginia is an important reminder that utilities will only begin to scale up renewable generation when large customers seriously pursue their commitments”.

"Google was the first IT company to directly contract for a renewable supply of electricity, signing its
first PPA in 2010 in Iowa. Despite operating one of the largest networks of data centers in the world to
power its search engine and other online services, Google has only recently had operations in Virginia’s
Data Center Alley. Google now has two data centers under development in Sterling, Virginia, and
has two significant colocation leases in Ashburn to power the US-East4 region of the Google Cloud
platform . Google has purchased over 2 .6 gigawatts of renewable energy globally, giving it a strong
claim to being the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world . But despite recent creative
claims of being “100 Percent Renewable Globally” from surplus supply of renewable credits in other
markets, Google has not yet taken steps to add renewable energy to meet the demand of its data
centers in Virginia . Google has been among the most active in supporting clean energy policies in other
states where it has operations, particularly in neighboring North Carolina, but is yet to become directly
engaged in shaping Virginia energy policy."

As it had been criticised by the report, the company lost half a mark under Climate Change.

Reference:

Clicking Clean Virginia 2019 (February 2019)

Ethical Consumer viewed the updated Greenpeace Report ‘Clicking Clean: who is winning the race to build a greener internet?’ dated January 2017.

The Clicking Clean reports benchmarks the IT sector, ranking IT companies on their use of renewable and dirty energy within their data centres. According to the 2017 report the IT sector was estimated to consume about 7% of the world’s global electricity and was predicted to increase threefold in global internet traffic by 2020, resulting in the internet's energy footprint rising further, fueled both by our individual consumption of data and by the spread of the digital age to more of the world's population.

Vevo received an ‘F’ grade in the 2017 Clicking Clean Report. The report stated "Vevo.com, a music video streaming service, appears to use both Rackspace and Amazon Web Services to host its content."
Energy Transparency: Vevo did not provide any information about its energy footprint.
Renewable Energy Commitment: Vevo had not set any renewable energy goals or adopted a long-term commitment to be renewably powered.
Efficiency and GHG mitigation: Vevo had not provided any evidence about increased energy efficiency.
RE procurement: Vevo had not offered evidence of renewable energy procurement.
Advocacy: Vevo had not provided any evidence of renewable energy advocacy.
As a result of its rating it lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's Climate Change category.

Reference:

Greenpeace USA Clicking Clean Report update (January 2017)

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer searched the Google website for the company's policy on the use of potentially hazardous chemicals such as PVC, BFR and phthalates. The company's Restricted Substance List 990-00012-00-C was downloaded.

A toxics policy was deemed necessary for all electronics companies, as these substances were widely used by electronics companies and had a significant negative environmental impact when released after disposal.
A strong policy on toxics would include publicly disclosed data on the use of hazardous chemicals such as PVC, BFR and phthalates; as well as clear, dated targets for ending their use.

Google's restricted substances list stated the following:

PVC: Shall not be used

Brominated Flame Retardants: Shall not be used

Phthalates: 1000 ppm sum total content (Phthalates - changed limit from 1000 ppm individual to 1000 ppm sum total content.) The company appeared to be reducing use of phthalates but no clear dates were found in relation to this.

According to the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics 2017, all Google products were free of BFRs and PVC.

As the company had phased out PVC and brominated flame retardants but not phased out phthalates, nor had clear targets for doing so, it received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Pollution and Toxics and lost half a mark under this category.

Reference:

Google sustainability website (13 May 2020)

In October 2019 the Responsible Sourcing Network released a report titled ‘Mining the Disclosures 2019: An Investor Guide to Conflict Minerals and Cobalt Reporting’.

2019 was the first year that Mining the Disclosures introduced an analysis of publicly available information on cobalt due diligence, aimed at encouraging companies to take action and disclose additional information. The report ranks 27 companies on efforts to address child labor and other human rights abuses in their cobalt supply chains. Cobalt is not considered a “conflict mineral”, but there is evidence that the mining of cobalt is contributing to harm, including risks with environmental degradation, safety, human rights, and community impacts.
“While exploring the quality of the due diligence systems in place, the cobalt rating assesses the availability of information and actions taken by companies. The 21 indicators reflect the OECD 5-Step framework and are weighted to highlight the focus on information disclosure, since there is no legislation requiring reporting for cobalt mining.”
“The report analyses a sample group of 27 companies chosen from the three largest industries consuming cobalt. These industries: technology, automotive, and jet engine manufacturing represent the vast majority of cobalt uses for batteries and metal alloys. For the technology sector, due to the broad spectrum of companies using cobalt, a sample of 10 companies was selected based on market cap and recognition by investors and consumers throughout the world.”
The report recommended that companies should follow the lead of others such as Dell Technologies and Microsoft, and adopt a policy covering cobalt sourcing. They should also join multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the RMI cobalt working group, the Cobalt Institute(CI). It also mentioned Better Mining (Better Sourcing Program and Better Cobalt), the Cobalt Industry Responsible Assessment Framework (CIRAF), and the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, an initiative of the CCCMC.
Companies were considered not to be providing adequate information if they scored below 50 points. RSN states that “The average score for cobalt — 26.4 — demonstrates a corporate risk that is deplorable.”
Alphabet scored 33.4 and therefore lost half a mark under Habitats & Resources, and Human Rights.

Reference:

Mining the Disclosures 2019 (15 October 2019)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Google website for information on the company’s
approach to conflict mineral sourcing. A link to the company’s Conflict Mineral Policy redirected to
Google’s owner, Alphabet’s Conflict Minerals Policy.

1. Conflict mineral policy
The policy stated: “We believe it is essential to establish validated, conflict-free sources of 3TG within the Covered Countries [under the Dodd Frank act] so that these minerals can be procured in a way that contributes to economic growth and development in the regions.” It also committed to ongoing due diligence.

2. Multi-stakeholder initiatives / In-region mining initiatives
According to their membership lists, Google was a member of the following multi-stakeholder initiatives or a partner for the following in-region mining initiatives:
- Responsible Mineral Initiative
- Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade
- Responsible Artisanal Gold Solutions Forum

3. Supplier expectations

The company stated: “Google advises its suppliers to take similar measures with their own sub- suppliers to ensure alignment and traceability throughout the supply chain and back to the smelter. Furthermore, under the Google Supplier Code of Conduct, Google expects its suppliers to perform due diligence on the source and chain of custody of minerals used in the manufacturing of products they supply to Google. Suppliers’ due diligence measures should be available to us upon request.”

However, it required due diligence but only recommended that its suppliers developed an equivalent conflict mineral policy.

4. Due diligence processes
Alphabet’s 2018 Conflict Mineral Report recorded the company’s actions in the year against each of the five stages OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, providing multiple bullet points for each.

5. RMAP smelters
Google’s 2018 Responsible Supply Chain Report stated that it would: “Continue to work toward ensuring that our suppliers source only from smelters that are conformant with the Conflict-Free Smelter Program assessment protocols.” “We have made good progress in sourcing from Compliant tin (100%), tungsten (100%), tantalum (100%), and gold (98%) smelters and refiners.”

6. Smelter or refiners list
The report also included a list of smelters, which specified country of location and material supplied. However, it did not indicate which were RMAP conformant, and as the report stated elsewhere “We communicated with suppliers that reported smelters who were not yet identified as RMAP conformant”, this was considered necessary.

Overall Google was considered to have Ethical Consumer's best rating for its concflict minerals policy.

Reference:

Alphabet’s Conflict Minerals Policy (9 September 2019)