Google goes green: Search giant announces new sustainability features from portfolio eco-scores to flights

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The Google offices in London’s King’s Cross  (PA)
The Google offices in London’s King’s Cross (PA)

Google today revealed a raft of new sustainability features aimed at helping consumers be more green, including plans to launch "portfolio scores" on Google Finance so retail investors can calculate how eco-friendly their investments really are.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and parent company Alphabet, announced that from today the tech giant will offer a "green badge" for lower emissions choices on its Google Flights, information on hotels’ eco-friendly efforts in the "about" tab, and data on where to find the nearest bike or e-scooter in over 300 cities worldwide.

The "portfolio scores" will see the search engine aggregate its sustainability scores - sourced from international non-profit the Climate Disclosure Project on over 10,000 firms - for all companies in an investor’s portfolio, and provide an overall portfolio eco-rating.

Hotel or flight emissions estimates will be calculated based on data provided by third parties such as airlines - and via Prince Harry’s Travalyst coalition, of which Google is a member. Travalyst aims to create an open model for calculating the carbon impact of air travel and a similar model for hotels.

Hotel groups including Hilton and Accor have already begun adding information on their sustainable practices, and Google expects more corporates to follow suit "in the coming months".

In a bid to combat misinformation, when users now head to Google Search with questions about climate change, it will show data from sources like the United Nations, as well as trusted news sources.

Other features, including options for taking greener routes on Google Maps, launch today in the US and will come to Europe at some point next year.

Maps will offer the most fuel-efficient route, as well as the quickest. Upcoming features for Britons also include Google’s Nest home energy-management and online shopping tools.

Pinchai said every move is part of the tech giant’s aim "to help one billion people make more sustainable choices by 2022". The announcement comes weeks before the COP26 climate conference of world leaders in Glasgow.

Google’s Chief sustainability officer, Kate Brandt, told reporters the tech giant wants to make the choice to live in a sustainable way "as easy as possible".

How will it work?

Flights:

People will be able see the associated CO2 emissions for every flight they find on Google Flights, directly in the search results.

Emissions will increase for business or first class seats because they take up more space and therefore make up a larger share of total emissions.

Hotels:

For hotels, the "about" tab will show a full list of their sustainable practices – including things like waste reduction, energy efficiency and water conservation measures.

Encouraging electric car sales

In the US, from today when people search for car models and manufacturers, Google will tag hybrid and electric options to make them easier to find. It will also show compatible charging stations nearby and typical charging times.

Eco-friendly routing

The co-friendly routing, launching today in North America, is powered by AI and insights from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Lite navigation for bikes - and even studies into how to make traffic lights more efficient

It also revealed plans to launch "lite" navigation for bikes in the coming months, to make it easier for cyclists to get around - and a long-term "traffic light efficiency" product that would use AI to optimize the efficiency of traffic lights across an entire city.

Google said: "Instead of manually measuring and calculating timings, one of our AI research groups has found a way to accurately calculate the traffic condition and timing at most intersections in cities around the world, and then train a model on that data to optimize those inefficient intersections.

"To date, the team has conducted pilots at four locations in Israel in partnership with the municipalities of Haifa, Beer-Sheva, and Israel National Roads Company. So far, we’ve observed a 10-20% reduction in fuel and intersection delay time.

"We’re beginning new pilots in Rio de Janeiro and are in conversation with other major cities around the globe."

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