Cisco Systems earned the top spot on the new Greenpeace "Cool IT" leadership list, while some of Japan's biggest electronics vendors -- Toshiba, Sharp, Sony and Panasonic -- finished last.
The list ranks 15 of the biggest technology vendors on their efforts to fight climate change. Out of a possible 100 points, half are awarded for products offered to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 35 are for political advocacy, and 15 are for corporate commitments to cut emissions internally.
Cisco dislodged IBM from the top spot, thanks to the networking vendor's smart-grid technologies and products for managing energy efficiency in offices. Greenpeace also praised Cisco's commitment to slash its own emissions 25 percent by 2012, and for CEO John Chambers' advocacy work.
Ericsson made the number-two spot. Its CEO was "the boldest CEO of all the tech companies before and during the Copenhagen Climate Summit," Greenpeace said. It also liked its detailed guide to measuring emissions, and a target to cut its own emissions 40 percent by 2012.
Panasonic was last on the list. Greenpeace said it needs to support Japan's greenhouse gas reduction targets with more than just "words on its Web site." It was also faulted for providing insufficient data about its renewable energy use.
Sony did almost as poorly. The company lost half its points because it "submitted no information on its IT solutions for climate change," Greenpeace said. Sony did meet its emissions reduction target early, and has set a new goal for 2016.
"A big reason you see lower scores from Japanese brands, as a group, is there's a lack of evidence of policy advocacy," said Gary Cook, a climate policy analyst with Greenpeace. The environmental group wants big companies to make use of their corporate heft to influence policy decisions.
There has been more advocacy in general since Greenpeace started its Cool IT list two years ago, Cook said. "What we need next is stronger advocacy -- not just more frequent speeches but really an increase in the quality and the strength of policy advocacy leadership," he said.
Google and Microsoft came somewhere in the middle of the pack, behind IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu, but ahead of Dell, Intel and SAP.
Google is a curious case. It is very outspoken about energy management and scored top marks for public advocacy, and Greenpeace praised its PowerMeter tool, for measuring energy consumption in homes. But its corporate secrecy let it down.
"Google has steadfastly refused to release any meaningful data on its own energy use or carbon emissions, citing concerns over disclosing information that could be used by its competitors, even though its arch-rival Microsoft is transparent on this issue," Greenpeace said.
It still finished slightly ahead of Microsoft, which also hasn't published emissions targets. Greenpeace faulted CEO Steve Ballmer for failing to "effectively articulate the importance of climate protection and clean energy transformation."
The next Cool IT list will include efforts to manage the carbon footprint of data centers. Greenpeace has turned its attention lately to cloud computing, and caused a stir by criticizing Facebook about its decision to open a data center near a coal-fired electricity plant.
The Cool IT list is different from Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics, which looks at toxic chemical use in PCs and consumer electronics. Nokia topped that list recently, while Nintendo finished last.