As well as green service changes to Google Maps, Flights and Hotels, a new upgrade to Google Business Profiles enables firms to promote the recycling facilities they offer, explains Google’s EMEA president Matt Brittin

Across the world, people are voting with their feet for sustainable choices. 72 per cent of us are concerned or fearful about climate change, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, which surveys people all over the world. And in Europe, according to Pew Research Center, climate change is seen as an even bigger threat than coronavirus.

At Google, we’ve seen searches for online sustainable goods increase by five times in the last five years. The message is clear: people want to live more sustainable lives – and they want clear, transparent information about how to do so.

Every day, people use Google to search for information on climate change and ways they can take action. We know people aren’t sure where to start, and we want to help you better answer those questions.

So last year, we set ourselves a challenge: to help one billion people make more sustainable choices by 2022.

As part of that, Google products are getting an eco-focused upgrade – making it easier for you to find sustainable routes, products and services.

From this year, Google Maps will offer eco-friendly routing: defaulting to the route with the lowest carbon emissions when the estimated time of arrival is similar to the fastest route. We estimate that this change alone could save over one million tons of carbon emissions per year – the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road. We’re also introducing information on carbon emissions to Google Flights; making changes to Google Hotels so you can see when a hotel has made meaningful commitments to sustainable practices; and we’ve upgraded our Search tool to provide authoritative explainers on the causes of climate change and actions you can take to reduce your own carbon footprint.

But people also turn to Google for information about what’s around them – and businesses rely on us to help them find new customers and retain old ones. With consumer recycling queries on Google Search increasing by over 150 per cent since 2016, we recognise that people want to recycle but can struggle to find the right places to do so – let alone what can be recycled where.

That’s why we’ve just announced an upgrade to Google Business Profiles, so that businesses can promote the recycling facilities they offer – whether it’s plastic bottles, electronics, clothes or glass. For businesses, the changes are easy to make in just a few clicks: and for people, it’ll mean it’s easier than ever to find where you can recycle what.

That means that businesses like Morgan Brisson in Paris, a specialist frizzy and curly hair care brand that uses products free from harmful ingredients, can help people find their recycling service for empty pumps and containers. And R:evolve Recycle in Glasgow, a volunteer-run ‘store’ where people can swap their unwanted clothes for new ones, or learn how to repair and upcycle them – can signpost their services.

For the fashion industry, clearer information on where to recycle clothes will be one step towards a cleaner future – but there’s much more work to do. The fashion industry accounts for up to eight per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally – and an estimated 350,000 tonnes of used clothes go to landfill in the UK each year. 

This year we also hope to introduce the Fibre Impact Explorer to fashion brands, a sourcing impact tool that helps designers better understand their supply chain. Most of fashion’s environmental impact comes from the raw materials stage of the supply chain – like when cotton is farmed or trees are cut down to create viscose. But when brands source these materials, they often have little to no visibility on the environmental impact of them. 

That’s why we created the Fibre Impact Explorer: a tool created in partnership with WWF and Stella McCartney that gives companies the data they need to make more responsible sourcing decisions. The tool can analyse how different fibres relate to environmental factors such as air pollution, biodiversity, climate and greenhouse gases; as well as how their farming impacts the communities around them – and crucially, suggest easy-to-implement alternative actions, like sourcing fibres from certified providers. We hope it’ll help brands choose more ethical and sustainable options throughout their supply chain – and in turn, support the fight against the climate crisis.

The climate crisis affects us all – and those who did the least to cause it will be the most affected. We recognise the unique responsibility and opportunity that Google has to help in the fight against climate change – not just by cleaning up our own emissions (we’ve been carbon neutral since 2007, matched our energy consumption with 100 per cent renewables since 2017, and aim to be carbon-free by 2030), but by helping others to do the same. The changes announced last week are just one step on the right path, but we stand ready to work with businesses across the world to build more.

Matt Brittin is president of Google for the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.

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