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What matters in tech, in your inbox every morning.

Your tech company needs a better climate plan

Image: Zhang Fengsheng / Protocol
Wind farm

Good morning! This Wednesday, Apple unveils an ambitious climate plan, a fight breaks out over digital passports, and Carta is being sued over alleged discrimination.

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The Big Story

How Apple's new climate plan stacks up

By 2030, "every Apple device sold will have net zero climate impact," the company declared yesterday.

That goal includes Apple, its suppliers, and even the entire life cycle of its products. To get there, Apple says it will reduce emissions by 75% in the next decade, and develop "innovative carbon removal solutions" to deal with the remaining 25%. (Which is sort of a fancy way of saying, "I don't know, we'll figure it out, but it definitely involves some carbon credits.")

  • "The entire life cycle" is a key phrase here, because Apple's thinking beyond production. It's also planning to use renewable and recycled packaging, offset emissions related to charging devices, cut down on corporate waste, and do a better job of recycling things like rare-earth minerals.
  • Apple's also working with its suppliers to make sure they're using 100% renewable energy, which could have big ramifications across the whole industry. Apple works with a lot of suppliers, and all those suppliers' other customers will benefit too.
  • As Grist pointed out, another big improvement would be to make it easier (and not warranty-voiding) to get devices repaired. But Apple's not doing that.

Three of the four trillion-dollar tech companies have now promised serious climate action in sweeping corporate plans. (Where you at, Alphabet?) So let's quickly recap the roadmap going forward:

  • Apple: Carbon neutral and 75% emissions reduction by 2030.
  • Amazon: Carbon neutral by 2040, 100% renewable operations by 2025.
  • Microsoft: Carbon-negative by 2030, removing all carbon since the company's founding by 2050.

But we're looking at you, Sundar and Mark, because if you're a leader at a big tech company, the pressure's mounting to set lofty goals for the coming decade — and make plans to actually meet them. Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have set some of the industry's most aggressive targets, and now it's your turn.

  • Oh, and if you're one of Apple's suppliers? Time to start making sustainability moves. Apple's not a client people like losing.

Identity

The pros and cons of a 'digital passport'

Sam Lessin wrote a piece for The Information yesterday calling for a better identity system on the internet. "If we could trust that we know exactly who is speaking in an online space, that would greatly diminish many of the speech issues we face today," he wrote. And he had a specific recommendation for how to accomplish that:

  • Lessin argued for "a national version of the coveted blue 'validated' check mark," like the Verified stamp on Twitter or Instagram. You'd get it when you get your real-life passport, with a username and password that identify you to the internet. Any "speech platform," Lessin said, would have to implement these IDs.

Interesting idea, even if it's one that's been talked about before. But Anil Dash, for one, hated it:

  • "We currently have a fascist government that is regularly inflicting violence on people for exercising their free speech rights," Dash wrote. "This would centralize and simplify their access to tracking vulnerable people's speech." That's just the first of 10 issues Dash had … with a single paragraph in Lessin's story.
  • GV's Rick Klau agreed with Dash. "Tying an online persona to a federally-backed identity makes a citizen's speech dependent on the government's continued support of that identity," he tweeted. "Which, among other things, would violate article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights."

There's a lot going here: How much does tech trust the government? How much should users trust tech or the government? Who gets to be in charge? Is real-name identity online important, problematic, or both?

  • I keep coming back to something Alex Stamos told me last year, which is that everybody wants it both ways. Don't read my messages, but also don't let any bad stuff come through! I'm pro-free speech, but don't let people be mean to me online!

The challenge when you're running a tech company is striking a balance. In this case, it's questions of trust and privacy, identity and security. These things are often in conflict online, like it or not, and to optimize for one is to sacrifice the other. As a leader in tech, all you can really do is try to hold both ideas in your head at once, and try to find the center.

Diversity

'I wrestled with what I considered hypocrisy at Carta daily.'

Protocol's Biz Carson writes: Compensation and equity software startup Carta had been one of the leading voices around gender equity in tech after its 2018 study showed that for every dollar in equity a male employee holds, women hold just 47 cents. In a blog post, its CEO Henry Ward pledged to do better and hire a woman to its board.

But the woman who led that study sued Carta on Tuesday. Emily Kramer, former VP of marketing for the the $3 billion startup, accuses the company of gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

  • Her complaint alleges that an internal study found she'd been massively underpaid. She got a big raise and triple equity grant, but was denied when she asked for the fix to be applied retroactively. Her lawsuit also described being excluded from executive meetings and denied promotions to an all-male C-Suite "over her style." Despite the public promise to hire a female board member by the end of 2018, Ward has still not hired one, the lawsuit claims.
  • In a one-on-one meeting last November, Kramer alleges that Ward said she was "in violation of a 'no a**holes' policy," that he repeatedly called her an a**hole, and that he compared her to an alcoholic that needed to acknowledge she had a problem. She also claims that Ward said she had been given many passes because she is a woman.

Despite spending two years trying to address gender equity and diversity and inclusion inside the company, Kramer told me she felt like she was forced to resign after the conversation with Ward.

  • The cognitive dissonance between her company's external actions and what was happening internally was "sad and hurtful," she said. She tried leading internal change, like asking to diversify hiring panels, but said she was rebuffed.
  • Still, she believes in Carta's mission of closing the gender equity gap, and her advice to any company struggling with diversity and inclusion is to start by evaluating pay. "No matter what's happening, if you look over to the person next to you that's doing the exact same job — or maybe you're doing a more senior job — and you find out that your pay isn't the same, everything else that the company is doing for inclusion gets thrown out the window. So it needs to start there."

In related news: Snap has hired Williams Kastner to run an internal investigation amid allegations of sexism and racism inside the company.

A MESSAGE FROM ALIXPARTNERS

AlixPartners

Speakers announced: Protocol's transformation editor Mike Murphy will lead a discussion on how businesses have long "gone digital" even if they didn't start that way. We are joined by New Balance CEO Joe Preston, WW CEO Mindy Grossman, and Honeywell Chief Digital Technology Officer Sheila Jordan. This event is presented by AlixPartners.

RSVP today.

People Are Talking

Ex-Microsoft exec Joe Duffy told a great story about the small ways Satya Nadella changed the company:

  • "I ordered the whole team MacBooks and saw an overnight shift in mindset within the organization. Everybody's eyes were instantly opened to the broader opportunity ahead for Microsoft and a new kind of optimism immediately infused the whole culture."

Companies everywhere need to reckon with a new safety-first approach to work, Netflix's Lisa Nishimura said:

  • "A lot of the innovations that are being put forth with safety as the primary concern, around shooting, we will take them forward. If they prove to be things that allow for more efficiencies, more collaboration."

The DOJ charged two Chinese hackers with trying to steal tech secrets and COVID-19 research, and John Demers had harsh words for their government:

  • "China has now taken its place, alongside Russia, Iran and North Korea, in that shameful club of nations that provide a safe haven for cyber criminals in exchange for those criminals being 'on call' to work for the benefit of the state."

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is considering banning TikTok, but not for the usual reasons:

  • "On complaints of immoral, obscene and vulgar content, streaming app Bigo has been blocked in Pakistan. TikTok has also been served with final warning on same grounds."

Making Moves

TikTok is planning to hire 10,000 people in the U.S., even as the Trump administration continues to yell about the app. It's reportedly hiring mostly in California, Texas, Florida and New York. Meanwhile, a group of U.S. ByteDance investors may be thinking about buying TikTok.

LinkedIn is laying off approximately 960 people — about 6% of staff — from its sales and recruiting teams. CEO Ryan Roslansky said that "COVID-19 is having a sustained impact on the demand for hiring, both in our LTS business and in our company."

In Other News

  • Twitter is cracking down on QAnon, suspending accounts, blocking URLs, and stopping related content from trending. Be prepared for "Jack Dorsey is a deep state agent" conspiracies.
  • Eric Schmidt wants to make a Digital Service Academy, a government-funded university to train coders for the federal government. The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, co-led by Schmidt, is set to recommend the idea to Congress.
  • Robinhood indefinitely postponed its U.K. launch, saying it wants to focus on "strengthening [its] core business in the U.S." That's despite recently boosting its valuation with new fundraising.
  • Facebook is investigating racial bias, after previously making it harder for employees to study its platforms' effect on different racial groups. Two new teams will look at potential Facebook and Instagram algorithm bias on U.S. users.
  • SlateStarCodex is back online. Which you probably knew, given the hundreds of emails subscribers got announcing every single post coming back to life.
  • Don't miss this New Yorker story about David Malan, the Harvard computer science professor who pioneered online learning.
  • Fiat Chrysler signed an exclusive deal with Waymo, ditching the Amazon-backed Aurora in its quest for self-driving cars. It's another big win for the Alphabet subsidiary, which partnered with Volvo last month.
  • The U.S. blacklisted China's O-Film, which supplies Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and a bunch of other tech companies with camera and display tech. The Commerce Department placed it on the Entity List, saying its subsidiary was linked to the forced labor of Uighurs.

One More Thing

The kids are all Robloxed

Here's the craziest stat I saw yesterday: More than half of U.S. kids under the age of 16 play Roblox. Half! The company announced the number while revealing its new mode for kids to have virtual birthday parties and super-chill hangs within the game. Which would sound super dystopian in normal times — "Timmy, time to log in and blow out the virtual candles!" — but right now sounds kind of delightful. It's not weird if I suddenly start playing Roblox, is it? How do you do, fellow kids?

A MESSAGE FROM ALIXPARTNERS

AlixPartners

Speakers announced: Protocol's transformation editor Mike Murphy will lead a discussion on how businesses have long "gone digital" even if they didn't start that way. We are joined by New Balance CEO Joe Preston, WW CEO Mindy Grossman, and Honeywell Chief Digital Technology Officer Sheila Jordan. This event is presented by AlixPartners.

RSVP today.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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