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Are internet companies easy targets for the green movement?

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The internet giants may be on the forefront of green innovation compared to behemoths in other industries like manufacturing. But what’s their motivation? GigaOM’s Katie Fehrenbacher put that question to execs from Facebook(s fb) and Switch on Thursday at Structure:Europe in London.

Switch EVP of data center technology Mark Thiele said that while public perception isn’t the internet giants’ entire motivation, protecting their brands is a big factor, especially because they’re so vulnerable to criticisms from Greenpeace and other environmental groups.

“The perception is that the work that Yahoo(s yhoo), Google(s goog) and Facebook do on a daily basis isn’t work that keeps airplanes in the air or keeps your car running or keeps food on the table,” Thiele said. “By attacking any one of them they get noticed by a billion people. It’s not necessarily a negative thing but that’s just the reality.”

Facebook European data center operations manager Niall McEntegart also pointed out that internet companies have also cultivated those green expectations because of the way their businesses scale. Like most small businesses, internet startups aren’t focused on sustainability and energy efficiency when they launch. But as they grow larger they naturally gravitate toward cloud computing and data centers, which are not only economically more efficient, but more power efficient, McEntegart said.

Check out the rest of our Structure:Europe 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page