Amazon workers on climate strike holding a sign that reads "climate leadership now," while marching outside the company's Seattle headquarters.
Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Tech workers have a secret climate superpower

Protocol Climate

Happy Thursday, and welcome to Protocol Climate. Today we’re serving up tech news and tapas. Wait, sorry. It’s just the tech news part, but we promise it’s the good stuff. We’re talking about tech workers’ next act in climate activism and businesses’ hidden carbon footprint. Find some patatas bravas and read on!

Big Tech workers’ superpower

Big Tech employees have a surprising amount of power to wield in addressing the climate crisis. In recent years, activist employees have led the charge for Amazon to strengthen its climate ambition. Now they could be poised to play an even bigger role with Washington finally moving on the policy front.

Former journalist Justin Gillis and energy policy expert and CEO of Energy Innovation Hal Harvey have written “The Big Fix,” a book dropping Sept. 20 with concrete steps individuals can take to influence climate policy for the better. Gillis chatted with Protocol about the specific role tech workers can play in ensuring the companies they work for are “good climate citizens.”

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

In your book, you write that employee pressure has been especially important for compelling climate action in the tech sector. Do you think there is something unique about the tech sector that makes these companies particularly swayable by employee input?

Well, the employee base skews younger. It may be that simple. We know that there's an age skew in the population in terms of how concerned people are about this whole problem. I think tech companies have found that they need a serious plan to have internal credibility.

Also, tech companies come out of the world of science. I think a lot of those people are really interested in the climate problem. Even if it's not what they want to work on professionally, it's been a very big worry in their minds.

I think, on balance, the tech industry has been a constructive force. There are wind and solar farms getting built because the American tech industry has said to states, “We're not going to put server farms in your state — with the jobs and the investment and the tax base that entails — unless you're willing to sell us renewable energy.”

While some are quite strong, so many of these tech industry pledges are panned as greenwashing or pandering. How can you tell if a corporate — and especially a tech company’s — climate commitment is a sign of real climate action? And how can individual employees nudge symbolic action into real action?

It’s fairly easy to tell, but it does require a little bit of analysis. Let's say a corporation has made a 2050 net zero pledge, but that's largely the extent of their climate commitment. That's basically a joke bordering on a lie. When somebody says they’re only promising to be net zero by 2050, what they're really saying is, “I'm too sorry to get off my butt and do it, but I'm gonna make a promise that will be redeemed by people running the company in 2050, who are now children in kindergarten.” That's just nonsense.

Any company that’s serious will also make a 2030 pledge that’s a bare minimum of 50% reduction in Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, though 80% reduction by 2030 would be better. Anybody who's pledging to have cut emissions a lot from their current level by 2030 is saying, “We're spending money now to do this.” If you see them spending money now, and realigning the supply chain, and buying renewable energy under power purchase agreements, then you know it's real. If it's just a 2050 pledge and nothing else, that's just a valentine to the climate with no money inside.

Read the full interview here.

Lisa Martine Jenkins

The surprising source of enterprise carbon pollution

Enterprise technology is often out of sight, out of mind. So, too, are its carbon emissions, which is why industry leaders have been slow to mitigate its climate toll despite the fact that enterprise technology emits as much carbon as the United Kingdom does. A new McKinsey analysis out today shows the biggest sources of pollution and how to fix the problem before it spirals.

The sector emits between 350 and 400 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases per year. That’s a measure that standardizes all greenhouse gases to carbon dioxide. And 400 megatons is also a lot, accounting for 1% of all global emissions.

  • While data centers’ energy use often grabs headlines, McKinsey found that personal business technology such as laptops, smartphones and even printers contribute up to two times more to the sector’s carbon emissions.
  • While a single server emits far more carbon than a single laptop on average, enterprise operations have more smartphones and laptops than servers.
  • End user devices are also replaced more often, adding to their carbon footprint. And they’re rarely recycled to boot, contributing to e-waste.

Some enterprise tech users are bigger emitters than others. The report covers emissions solely resulting from a company’s own on-site enterprise operations and the indirect emissions resulting from end user devices that the company relies upon.

  • It shows that the communications, media and services industry puts 80 and 85 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere annually.
  • Banking and investment services isn’t far behind. The industry’s use of enterprise technology emits 60 and 65 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

The problem could get worse — but CIOs have plenty of solutions at the ready. Absent action, emissions from the enterprise sector’s end user devices alone are on track to increase nearly 13% per year between now and 2026. But the good news is there are, in fact, plenty of actions to take and they come at a minimal cost.

  • The first one is buying less stuff, which can cut between 50% and 60% of end user device-related emissions. That includes a 20% drop in the first year alone.
  • McKinsey also recommended that enterprise leaders expand device recycling practices.
  • The report also says that enterprise leaders should establish metrics for “green returns” on technology costs, focusing on the cost per ton of carbon saved as they consider suppliers and manufacturers of the technology that their operations rely on.

That last step is in many ways the first one. Measuring sources of emissions now makes cutting them tomorrow that much easier.

Read the full story here.

Lisa Martine Jenkins


Today’s inflation crisis is driving up the costs of commodities, food and energy at rates not seen in decades. Businesses must lead in this moment, and can do so most immediately through energy efficiency – aligning with climate commitments while delivering immediate returns and alleviating pressure on citizens and consumers everywhere.

Learn more

Make it rain

TeraWatt Infrastructure has raised more than $1 billion for its EV charging stations servicing commercial fleets of cars, vans and trucks. Investors include Vision Ridge Partners, Keyframe and Cyrus Capital.

H2 Green Steel, a Swedish company that focuses on making steel using green hydrogen, just raised a $191 million in Series B funding, co-led by AMF, GIC and Schaeffler.

Electric trucking company Battle Motors (formerly Crane Carrier Company), announced a $150 million Series B round with undisclosed investors. The money will go toward expanding production output among other things.

London-based renewable energy supply startup Tesseract nabbed $78 million in funding to buy and build renewable energy assets. The round was co-led by Balderton Capital and Lakestar.

Patch, a San Francisco-based carbon credit platform, raised a $55 million in its Series B, led by Energize Ventures.

Albedo’s Series A round brought in $48 million so the startup can develop its satellite technology. The funding round was co-led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Shield Capital.

Monta, an EV charging platform based in Europe, just announced a $30 million investment from Energize Ventures to expand to the U.S.

French startup Standing Ovation just raised $12 million in Series A funding, led by Astanor Ventures, for its animal-free cheese ingredients.

Climate software firm Climate Alpha secured a $4 million seed round to develop its AI and machine learning technology, which tells customers where to invest and move in light of the climate crisis’ impacts.

Goldman Sachs and Cleanhill Partners have acquired a majority stake in EPC Power Corp., a supplier of smart inverters. The investment will go toward expanding the company’s presence in renewable energy storage markets.

Hot links

Google Maps is failing bike riders. The app doesn’t have the information cyclists need to navigate city streets. A few tweaks could speed up the adoption of no-carbon transit.

If you want to improve your company’s sustainability but don’t know where to start, here are some great options to consider.

“This is the solar of the future” is a pretty heady claim, but that’s what German battery maker sonnen thinks is the case for rooftop solar plus storage. A growing number of utilities agree.

The EV revolution isn’t just happening on the road. It’s happening in factories, too. Major automakers are plowing big bucks into reviving factories and building new ones in the race to control the EV future.

Mirror, mirror, on the satellite. The concept of using space mirrors to redirect sunlight to solar panels on Earth and generate power at night first emerged decades ago, but one startup is making it new again.

Climate change is turning up the heat on social media. When temperatures reach above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the amount of hate speech online creeps up.

Most coal plants could be turned into advanced nuclear reactors, according to a new report from the Department of Energy. Roughly 80% of the coal sites in the U.S. are suitable for the switch, which could cut emissions dramatically.

Solar power is helping fund schools. Rooftop panels aren’t just keeping schools’ lights on. They’re saving some school districts millions of dollars, allowing them to increase teacher pay and upgrade buildings.


Today’s inflation crisis is driving up the costs of commodities, food and energy at rates not seen in decades. Businesses must lead in this moment, and can do so most immediately through energy efficiency – aligning with climate commitments while delivering immediate returns and alleviating pressure on citizens and consumers everywhere.

Learn more

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