Dell (s aapl) recently made it clear in a blog post that it thinks rival Apple’s (s appl) green laptop claims have a lot of holes. Well, the Texas-based computer maker, which has been making one of the most substantial efforts in the computing world to produce more eco-products and neutralize its carbon footprint, also has a few questions to answer when it comes to the validity of its green efforts.
This morning the Wall Street Journal’s Jeffrey Ball has a really interesting investigative piece that claims Dell is actually only neutralizing about 5 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that go into making its products. That small figure will surprise many who listened to Dell announce recently that it had reached its carbon-neutral goal a good five months ahead of schedule.
And while it’s difficult to know how much Dell could boost that percentage, the WSJ article also points out that Dell is largely relying on renewable energy credits to offset its carbon footprint, which can be highly controversial. It was no secret that Dell was using renewable energy credits as part of its carbon-neutral plan, along with energy efficiency, but we are unsettled to hear that the company “is claiming carbon neutrality mostly by purchasing environmental credits,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The kicker is that the Wall Street Journal also did substantial legwork looking into whether or not the renewable energy credits were supporting projects that would have already happened even if Dell had not supplied funding. Mid American Energy Co., the owner of wind projects in Iowa that are the biggest contributor to Dell’s renewable energy certificate offsets, says that the wind projects would have been built without Dell’s funds.
All of this isn’t an implication of Dell and acts instead to shine a light on the problems associated with carbon neutrality and offsets. Dell has actually been pretty aggressive about this — a lot more aggressive than many in the industry. And we hope that a closer look at Dell’s carbon footprint plans ends up helping the company make those plans better, and does not deter it and other large corporations from attempting to reduce their emissions.
Overall we hope that more transparency will spur companies to take this issue even more seriously. Dell has said it is dedicating $5 million to the carbon-neutral project, which was spent over a period of about two years. Considering Dell’s overall balance sheet, that’s nothing. Boost that budget and we’re thinking the company will get better results.