NEXTDC: Greenpeace's 'The Hero to Zero' report explores the green work being done by the Australian tech industry

Sep 21, 2021 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Greenwashing is unfortunately prevalent in most industries these days. From McDonald's rolling out non-recyclable paper straws to Eni claiming that its palm oil-based diesel was 'green' - companies claiming they care about sustainability whilst failing to deliver on their promises is rife. As a result, GreenPeace recently set out on a mission to call out and expose Australian companies that are doing just that. That said, it was good news for those in tech industry, or at least for NEXTDC and Optus, who were highlighted for making good on their promises - for the most part. 

In the Hero to Zero report called "Uncovering the truth of corporate Australia's climate action claims", Greenpeace outlined that the two companies are taking steps in the right direction. 

The report highlighted that NEXTDC has been certified by Climate Active as carbon neutral since 2018, and that it also "heavily promotes its climate credentials to its customer base." Meanwhile, Optus was outlined to be one of the first Australian telcos to sign up to the Science Based Targets Initiative, committing to reducing Scope 1 & 2 emissions by 52% by 2030 based on a 2017 baseline.

That's not to say the report gave them a stellar review, and it was made clear that further work must be done by both companies. Regarding NEXTDC, the report noted that the company's purchasing carbon offsets to achieve carbon neutrality, such as its Colodan Great Barrier Reef project in Queensland, is not enough. Greenpeace stated that offsets "cannot replace the need to cut emissions at the source by switching off coal power and on to renewable electricity." 

Moreover, the environmental organization said that in order for NEXTDC to live up to its "climate leader ambitions", it must commit to switching to 100% renewable electricity by 2025 and "support its customers to do the same."

For Optus it received the same kind of criticism. The report said that Optus needs to "rule out the potential use of offsets," while increasing its ambition regarding its "targets and timelines" and, fundamentally, commit to 100% renewable electricity, or, as Greenpeace states, "risk being left behind in the telco race to renewables." This is because Optus's telecom competitors (Telstra and TPG Telecom) have already committed to achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2025.

Ultimately, the report makes a number of recommendations for all corporations in Australia, including:
  • Companies should create credible net-zero targets, establish short term 100% renewable electricity targets and phase out of fossil fuels
  • Companies should work on achieving zero emissions or as near-zero-emissions as possible
  • Companies should avoid the use of carbon offsets and focus on investments in ecosystem restoration and reforestation in their own right
  • Companies should focus on high-quality domestic offsets that are well-regulated in cases where emissions are entirely unavoidable