Study: Big Tech companies produce even more carbon emissions by having cash in the bank

Originally published at: Study: Big Tech companies produce even more carbon emissions by having cash in the bank | Boing Boing


What about all the employees they are paying? Those employees use that money to consume, and probably mostly products that pollute or cause waste or greenhouse gases. That exponentially increases their carbon footprint!

You can do this ad infinitum. The main issue is what the core company itself does.


Agreed this is a weasely way to attribute environmental damage to particular entities. But it does highlight the fact that investment has environmental consequences which need to be considered.

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In other words, the capitalist class’s exchange of capital is a major contributor to the climate change caused by the industrialization of capitalism, which is slowly ravaging the planet, costing more capital. Neat!

Sounds like the thesis for a follow-up book to Piketty.

You can, but you don’t have to. There’s now a general acknowledgment that trying to place the burden on individuals living their lives – even en masse – was in large part just a cynical ploy promoted by the fossil fuel industry to distract from the vastly greater carbon-emitting activities of large institutions like multi-national corporations and state actors. If we are going to interrogate the culpability of the core companies, it’s also fair to examine the system of late-stage capitalism that enables (and in this case exacerbates) that culpable behaviour.

In this “Carbon Bankroll” formulation, cash in the bank (AKA cash in treasury) is cash not being utilised for the company’s core activities, but is instead being used to generate income via non-core rentier activities. To give one prominent example, let’s look at the investment entity called Braeburn Capital. Braeburn is a subsidiary of Apple, Inc. that doesn’t manufacture computers or phones or software. It also doesn’t built a fancy new $5-billion HQ complex to support those activities. However, with approx. $270-billion in assets under managment, Braeburn generates a lot of economic activity and – depending on how it invests – carbon emissions all on its own. This is the result of a system that encourages companies to engage in sometimes grotesque levels of non-core activities (see also Starbucks, which is not really a coffee business but a real estate one).

That same system, by the way, is the one that obliges individuals to take jobs with these companies to consume products produced by other companies. To be sure, we have to address the fact that consumers have become accustomed to paying far less than the actual cost of goods and services when carbon emissions are taken into account. We also have to point out that some consumer goods and services and activities are just plain wasteful. However, these are larger systemic tasks rather than ones that can be left to individual choice.


Yes, it seems like double-counting. My inner accountant automatically thinks the core polluter should be given a credit if another entity is partially responsible for the pollution. In this case the physical units are more like labels rather than physical units.

Instead the physical units do serve to trace responsibility to all the actors facilitating the emissions. It is exactly like tracing funds in money laundering: it is the same money, but multiple parties could be charged for having it pass through their hands.

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