/Adani question highlights gap in tech companies green credentials

Adani question highlights gap in tech companies green credentials

Aside from IBM, Optus and Telstra, all of the companies sought to dodge the questions, either refusing to comment or instead seeking to highlight their own green credentials. IBM and Optus said they have no dealings with Adani, whereas Telstra provides basic telecommunications to its offices, but not the mine.

Oracle used its corporate blog last year to crow about scoring “An A for climate change” for its efforts to cut emissions and has a blog specifically dedicated to its sustainability credentials, which says the company is “committed to building a resilient future for our planet, for humanity, and for future generations.”

However The Financial Review confirmed that it provides project management software to the Carmichael Mine through the Australian company Aconex, which it acquired for $1.6 billion at the end of 2017.

Siemens was targeted by environmental activists, including Greta Thunberg, when it decided to fulfil a $31 million contract with Adani. Fairfax

When asked about its work for Adani, an Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment, and a follow up question about whether it believed the project sat within the values espoused on its blog was ignored.

SAP meanwhile has trumpeted its credentials as the most sustainable software company, but similarly to Oracle has a big money enterprise-wide business transformation deal with the Adani Group.

In an initial response to The Financial Review’s questions, an SAP spokesman said the company had “no commercial agreements in place with Adani Australia”, but when pressed on whether its products were used in Australia under its global agreement with Adani, it said it would not comment on specific customer projects.

Microsoft made global headlines earlier this month with an announcement that it would remove as much carbon as it has emitted in its 45-year history.

However, when asked if it provides software and services to Adani a spokeswoman said it could not comment specifically on Adani, or any other customer.

She pointed to comments made by company president Brad Smith in a company blog post, following Microsoft’s carbon emissions announcement.

“We are committed to continuing to work with all our customers, including those in the oil and gas business, to help them meet today’s business demands while innovating together to achieve the business needs of a net zero carbon future,” Mr Smith wrote.

“It’s imperative that we enable energy companies to transition, including to renewable energy and to the development and use of negative emission technologies like carbon capture and storage and direct air capture. All this must be paired together to achieve the growing energy needs of an expanding global economy.”

In some cases an argument could be made that by advising companies on better technology use, they can make operations more energy efficicient. Indeed SAP’s spokesman said it would work “tirelessly” with its customers to support making their operations more efficient and sustainable.

“In general we believe that walking away from any challenge is not the best way to enable change, and we would rather want to be part of a joint solution,” the spokesman said.

However, the executive director of Friends of the Earth’s business and investment focused lobby group Market Forces, Julien Vincent, said tech companies needed to address the fact that their software was enabling environmentally damaging projects to become economically viable.

He said tech companies were among the most energy-hungry, so their efforts to decarbonise their own operations were critical. However, they needed to put an equal focus on the operations of their client bases.

Market Forces has been vocal in its campaigning against firms providing their services to Adani in Australia, and said staff working for tech giants should also recognise the reality of what their products enabled.

“If they were working on bespoke technology solutions for new coal mines or power stations, or companies whose business future would result in the failure of the Paris Agreement, that could quickly undo a lot of otherwise great work [in reducing their own emissions],” Mr Vincent said.

“We’ve found with many of the engineering companies that have walked away from Adani and their Carmichael coal project, it has as much to do with the staff base as anything else.

“In our experience, engineers want to work in spaces that push technology and innovation forward, and there is also a high level of awareness about climate change and its risks, so we weren’t surprised to see so many companies walk away from Adani after the staff base became upset.”

Meanwhile, Professor of Organisation Studies at UTS Business School Carl Rhodes said the contradiction of companies spruiking their own environmental credentials, while supplying to known polluters, showed that corporate social responsibility was usually only raised when it aligned with benefits for the company itself.

“This could come in the form of cost reductions due to energy efficiency, or simply be green-washing for PR and marketing purposes, but whatever the case, business always comes first,” Mr Rhodes said.

“This means that corporations’ social or environmental commitments are wafer thin, even though they most commonly go on the front foot to show off about them to the public.

“In the end there is no hypocrisy because adopting an environmental position in one part of the business while selling to polluters in another is entirely consistent with the profit motive, and that’s what really counts.”

Of the other companies contacted for this article, both AWS and Atlassian highlighted their own carbon footprint reduction, while refusing to discuss any commercial arrangements with Adani or policies related to who they were willing to sell to.