Are tech companies misleading you with their environmental claims?

When it comes to the environment then all claims must be supported by evidence.

You wouldn’t decide if someone was innocent or guilty without evidence, you wouldn’t believe claims about what a product or service you were thinking of buying could do without evidence.

I’ve been actively working on the topic of the environment and sustainability for a couple of years now and I set myself some important rules, I would try my very best to be open, honest and where I use numbers to support my claims that these would come from independent and named sources. I would also be clear in any and all calculations that I use when it comes to power consumption or emissions and show my workings. I have encouraged all my peers at NetApp to follow the same rules.

But this is absolutely not the situation when you look more broadly at the approaches being taken by some tech companies.

When it happens once that could be classed as over exuberance, twice starts to indicate a pattern but when you spend months building misleading and unsubstantiated claim on top of unsubstantiated claim then this would indicate a more deliberate approach. I am not going to name the specific company in this example, although I’m sure many of you may guess, but I am going to present you with some of their claims.

My hope is that this will encourage them to provide the missing evidence or at least to consider very carefully whether this kind of marketing around our environment and our planet is really how they want to present themselves as an organisation.

Let’s start with an extract from their ESG report as this is the foundation that everything else then builds on

Sounds incredible right, but how did they get these numbers? In the ESG report they state “As part of this LCA, we engaged an outside environmental consulting firm to assess how the xxxxxx product compares to competitive all-flash arrays”

But they do not name the outside environmental consulting firm, nor do they provide access to the assessment, they don’t name any of the competitors, nor specify the configuration of their system or any of the unnamed competitor systems that they then compare it to. Apparently the report that this is all based on is pending third party critical review, this ESG report was published back in April, nearly 10 months ago.

Here’s what the UK CMA, say about environmental claims, these should always be your ‘sniff test’.

  • claims must be truthful and accurate
  • claims must be clear and unambiguous
  • claims must not omit or hide important relevant information
  • comparisons must be fair and meaningful
  • claims must consider the full life cycle of the product or service
  • claims must be substantiated

But on they go and with this foundation in place now they start to build on it…

This states that all of the above calculations are based on the info in their 2021 ESG report, which as we just saw has no available evidence or substance, so straight away you can pretty much dismiss anything else on this graphic. But let’s pick on one or two other things just to highlight the sleight of hand…

  1. On the right it says 80% energy savings compared to competitors all flash solutions, as we just said, there is nothing to support this
  2. When you now look at the numbers in the comparison table you obviously think this is comparing equivalent flash systems, that’s why it’s around 80% better right? Wrong! Look at the rack space 52U compared to 6U, and the drive size of 7.7TB compared to 18.3TB. This is NOT comparing equivalent flash solutions

Again look back at what the UK CMA say about environmental claims, does this pass all of them, does it actually pass any of them?

As I said right at the beginning, when it comes to the environment then all claims must be supported by evidence.

I am encouraged by the progress that the UK, the EU and many other regions are making in the ‘Green Transition’ with respect to environmental claims and I think it’ll certainly help to stop some of this activity, but in the meantime it is our duty to the planet and the environment to hold vendors to account.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.