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Do It My Way…Or Else

Couldn’t help but notice that the scolds at Greenpeace have once again committed a hissy fit to paper in the form of their “Clicking Clean Report for 2017” that reaffirms their position that, when it comes to energy usage, data centers really suck. Of course, they haven’t attempted to quantify the impact of many data center operators and providers efforts to improve their energy efficiency since they aren’t doing it the way Greenpeace wants them to and balance is the enemy of partisanship. Apparently, this has become an annual thing, maybe they time it to coincide with a major fund-raising campaign like they do on PBS only without the free tote bags and coffee mugs. Naturally, my curiosity got the best of me—it was a slow day–so I gave it the old once over. Upon concluding my perusal, a few thoughts came immediately to mind, and, because I couldn’t think of anything else to write about this week, I thought I’d share them with you.

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In the spirit of always accentuating the positive, I was quite impressed by the report’s graphical content. The use of icons and color was especially noteworthy. For example, the “Green Energy Index” column featured a wind turbine with its rotors aligned to represent the Viet Nam era “Peace Sign” and was set against a green field. Green Peace, get it. If there’s a better way of smugly saying, “We’re better than you because we care”, I sure can’t think of it. Including full color logos of all the reviewed companies along with the placing their “grades” in the adjoining column was especially useful in quickly identifying and separating those who had been naughty from those who’d been nice while also eliminating the need to attempt to discern the grading rubric. Empiricism is just so much more limiting than subjective criteria.

Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like they subjected more companies to scrutiny this year. I’m not sure just how those decisions were made, but I’ll bet there were many providers that were quite unhappy about not making the list. I for one don’t feel slighted, and I look on the fact that Compass wasn’t included as a major employee motivational point for us to rally around in 2017. “Think about it guys, if we all work really hard, they can publicly hate us too”. Now if that doesn’t get you fired up, you don’t have a pulse.

In the interest of balance, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a few of the report’s shortcomings. We’ll call this constructive criticism.

First, I couldn’t help but notice that the Greenpeace folks have acquired their very own blimp. I guess to fly it over the headquarters of particularly egregious offenders. Kind of like they do at football games. Does this send the right message to the group’s adoring fans? After all, the use of blimps as promotional vehicles was popularized by Goodyear, a tire maker. Tires, of course, are integral components of the exhaust spewing vehicles that clog our nations streets and highways, and blimps may float with helium but they run on gas so I think you know where I’m going with this. Next thing you know, they’ll be replacing Prius’ with Escalades as their company cards.

I also couldn’t help but wonder who the audience is for this information? Oh, I’m sure that there are a few folks out there that quiver with anticipation as the release date grows near in the same way that teenage boys used to await the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in the 80s, but, for the most part, aren’t they preaching to the converted? Somehow, I can’t imagine that the CEO’s of these companies await their Greenpeace grades with the same level of fear and dread as most of us did for our algebra final. And, in an environment where a downturn in stock price can mean no longer receiving a Christmas card from the board, does anyone expect the occupant of the corner office to say, “I know we missed our revenue projection, and the stock is down 25%, but what are we going to do about this Greenpeace grade?” Yeah, me neither. Maybe it’s to pick up some free PR which is a good thing since, if you haven’t noticed, the competition to publicly shame job producing, revenue generating, economic contributors has become quite fierce. There is only so much donor money to go around and those Earth Liberation Front guys are ruthless.

Ultimately the problem with reports like Greenpeace’s is that once they are started, they can never be stopped. Once you’ve staked your claim on advocating to resolve a specific grievance, paradoxically, you now have a vested interest in the issue never being resolved. In other words, if everything’s okay, why do we need you? The data center providers on the report know this and realize that no matter what they do it can never be enough because Greenpeace will always need villains. In a sense, everyone’s in on it, but we can still look forward to the 2018 report and subsequent iterations, because, even in a perfect world, there will always be organizations looking for something to bitch about to generate funds and hold companies hostage with bad press. Extortion never goes out of style.