Greenpeace has had a campaign going on both on Facebook and off telling Facebook to “Unfriend Coal.” In other words, Greenpeace and 500,000 supporters (so far) are urging Facebook to stop using energy from dirty coal plants.
The Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, recently got into the discussion and wrote a letter to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
In the comments section of that blog post, Barry Schnitt, Director of Policy Communications at Facebook, wrote a lengthy response, the heart of which was basically this: coal is bad and the world needs to use more renewable energy but Facebook has no power over the power mix they are supplied.
If he thought that was going to pacify Greenpeace or the half a million people behind this campaign, I’m not sure how he got his job at Facebook.
Greenpeace policy analyst Gary Cook responds with a lengthy letter of his own. Here is the beginning of this letter:
Thanks for your response.
We appreciate your recognition that Facebook has a coal problem with its Oregon data center. However, where we disagree is your claim to be powerless to do anything about it as, like Greenpeace and others, Facebook simply has to buy whatever electricity is available. This is not the case for Greenpeace, and is certainly not the case for Facebook, who is an industrial scale consumer of electricity.
As evidenced by the 500,000 users who have asked Facebook to get off of coal, we expect and demand more leadership from such an innovative company that is a playing an important role in bringing the world together.
Facebook is buying electricity in bulk to meet the needs of 500 million+ users, and is becoming a very influential company both inside and outside the IT sector. The expected power consumption of the Oregon data center alone gives Facebook the purchasing power of 30,000-40,000 homes, which gives you the ability and standing to shape how power is generated in Oregon and far beyond.
As we have seen with other environmental challenges, motivated companies with big purchasing power can make a powerful difference in driving environmental solutions and policy change. Greenpeace’s recent campaign targeting Nestlé (using Facebook no less) over their purchase of palm oil that is destroying the rainforest in Indonesia led the company to change its procurement policy, and has now led Burger King to announce yesterday that they will no longer buy palm oil from this supplier. This is sending a powerful signal both to the marketplace and to the policy makers in Indonesia and well beyond….
I imagine the conversation will continue on. And, hopefully, Facebook will get the point that they can and should do more. If you haven’t already joined the Facebook group or the campaign, you can do so now in order to tell Facebook that coal is a technology of the past that needs to be dropped and Facebook has the power to help unfriend coal!
Photo Credit: Greenpeace