Author Archives: Ruth Porat

It should be the goal of every business to protect our planet

Today, at the start of the 25th annualUnited Nations Climate Change Conference, Google is joining 70 other companies and union leaders to call for the United States to stay in the Paris Agreement. We’re also sharing what Google is doing as a global innovator in renewable energy markets, and to build responsible supply chains and products that use AI to drive sustainability. 

We firmly believe that every business has the opportunity and obligation to protect our planet. To that end, we’re focused on building sustainability into everything that we do—from designing efficient data centers to creating sustainable workplaces to manufacturing better devices and creating more efficient supply chains. But our goal is much bigger: to enable everyone—businesses, policy makers and consumers—to create and live in a more sustainable world. 

Catalyzing the market for renewable energy

Google has been a carbon-neutral company since 2007 and we’ve matched our entire annual electricity consumption with renewable energy since 2017. Purchasing at Google’s scale helps grow the market for renewable energy, makes it easier for other corporate buyers to follow suit and supports a future where everyone has access to 24x7 carbon-free energy.  

  • Following Sundar’s September announcement of our biggest renewable energy purchase to date, we now have a portfolio of 52 wind and solar projects totaling more than 5 gigawatts, driving some $7 billion in expected new investments and thousands of related jobs around the world. Once these projects come online, they will produce more electricity than cities the size of Washington, D.C. or countries such as Lithuania or Uruguay use each year—all with renewable energy. 

  • We insist that all projects add new renewable energy sources to the grid—which catalyzes new  wind and solar projects. This approach also drives economic growth in the regions where we operate. For example, in Europe alone, Google’s purchases of renewable energy have generated €2.3 billion in capital investment in new renewable projects.

  • Google’s renewable energy purchases have helped make significant progress towards our long-term aspiration to power our operations with carbon-free energy in all places, at all times. Reaching 24x7 carbon-free energy will require innovations across policy, technology and business models and we are working hard to advance progress in these areas. For example, we recently signed a hybrid solar-wind agreement in Chile, which will increase our hourly carbon-free energy match from 75 percent to more than 95 percent.

  • As a founding member of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), we are leading an effort to bring together more than 300 renewable energy buyers, developers, and service providers to pave the way for any company to access and purchase renewable energy. Collectively this group has committed to purchasing 60 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025; that’s more than six times the amount of solar and wind installed in the U.S. in 2018. 

  • We’re also partnering with businesses to drive policy change to create broad access to renewable energy purchasing for everyone. For example, in the state of Georgia, we worked with Walmart, Target and Johnson & Johnson to establish the first corporate renewable energy purchasing program with Georgia Power, the local utility.

Building responsible supply chains and products

In areas where we manufacture hardware products, we view it as our responsibility to make sure our suppliers and the surrounding communities have access to clean energy. We’re also committed to integrating sustainability into every step of our hardware process, from design to manufacturing to shipping: 

  • In October, we committed to invest approximately $150 million into renewable energy projects in key regions where our Made by Google products are manufactured. Our investment commitment, alongside partners, aims to catalyze roughly $1.5 billion of capital into renewable energy. With these investments, we expect to help generate renewable energy that is equivalent to the amount of electricity used to manufacture Google consumer hardware products. 

  • One-hundred percent of this year’s Nest products include recycled content plastic. 

  • One-hundred percent of all shipments to and from customers of Made by Google products are carbon neutral. 

  • On an individual level, our products and services help consumers reduce their own environmental impact on the planet. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostats have helped people save more than 41 billion kilowatt hours of energy—enough to power all of Estonia's electricity needs for six years.

  • We’re also making it easier for people to give their old devices a second life. Customers can responsibly recycle devices for free—whether made by Google or not—via our take-back program for all products, available in 16 countries, and via our U.S. Pixel trade-in program.

Using AI to build a more sustainable world

Google’s expertise in AI is a key part of how we think about sustainability. Here are just a few of the ways AI is helping to tackle some of the world’s most challenging environmental problems:

  • We built an AI-powered efficiency recommendation system that directly controls data center cooling. This first-of-its-kind cloud-based system is delivering energy savings of roughly 30 percent. We’re now working to give our Cloud customers access to this same technology.

  • We’re using AI to optimize wind farms in our global fleet of renewable energy projects. After DeepMind and Google started applying machine learning algorithms to 700 megawatts of wind power in the central U.S., the value of that wind energy has been boosted by roughly 20 percent.

  • AI powers Global Fishing Watch, a platform we launched in partnership with Oceana and SkyTruth that promotes ocean sustainability by visualizing, tracking and sharing data about global fishing activity in near real-time and for free.

  • We’re also working to reduce the impact of our changing climate on vulnerable people. It’s estimated that every year, 250 million people around the world are affected by flooding. Our flood forecasting initiative in the Patna region of India is aimed at providing accurate real-time flood forecasting information and alerts to those in affected regions.

Providing resources to accelerate action beyond Google

Many organizations doing the most important work to address environmental challenges lack the funding and internal expertise to achieve their goals. That’s why we’re committed to empowering businesses, nonprofits, researchers and policy makers to take action:

  • Our first-ever Google AI Impact Challenge awarded $25 million in Google.org funding, product credits and mentorship from Google experts. Winners include organizations that are driving critical work in climate, conservation and energy. For example, WattTime is working to replace expensive, on-site power plant emissions monitors with a globally accessible, open-source monitoring platform. This will help make critical emissions reduction initiatives more accessible to communities that might not otherwise be able to afford them. 

  • The Google for Startups Accelerator will support social impact startups addressing climate, poverty and inequality. It gives startups access to expertise on technology, monetization of a social impact business and capital. 

  • More than 70 percent of global emissions are generated by cities. Our Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) makes it easier for cities to access and act upon new climate-relevant datasets. 

Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges of our time and Google is committed to doing its part. We’re aggressively building sustainability into our operations and supply chains—efforts that are detailed in our annual Environmental Report andResponsible Supply Chain Report. We’ll continue to lead and encourage others to join us in improving the health of our planet. 

Breast cancer and tech…a reason for optimism

I was diagnosed with breast cancer twice, in 2001 and again in 2004. Thanks to early detection and access to extraordinary care—including multiple rounds of chemo, radiation and more surgery than any one person should ever have in a lifetime—I’m still here and able to write this piece. In fact, I’ve probably never been healthier. 

I remember receiving the news. I was initially terrified. Our three kids were only five, seven, and nine at the time of my first diagnosis, and all I wanted was to live to see them grow up. I’m grateful I had options and access to treatments, but no aspect of it was pleasant. Last year, I had the joy of seeing our youngest son graduate from college. In the years since I first learned of my cancer, there’s been remarkable progress in global health care, augmented with pioneering work from medical researchers and technology companies. I know how incredibly fortunate I am, but I also know that for far too many, a diagnosis comes too late and the best care is beyond reach. 

And that’s where Google has focused its work: to bring healthcare innovations to everyone.Working at Google, I have had a front-row seat to these technological breakthroughs. 

During the past few years, teams at Google have applied artificial intelligence (AI) to problems in healthcare—from predicting patient outcomes in medical records to helping detect diseases like lung cancer. We’re still early on in developing these technologies, but the results are promising. 

When it comes to breast cancer, Google is looking at how AI can help specialists improve detection and diagnosis. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women worldwide, taking the lives of more than 600,000 people each year. Thankfully, that number is on the decline because of huge advances in care. However, that number could be even lower if we continue to accelerate progress and make sure that progress reaches as many people as possible. Google hopes AI research will further fuel progress on both detection and diagnosis. 

Early detection depends on patients and technologies, such as mammography. Currently, we rely on mammograms to screen for cancer in otherwise healthy women, but thousands of cases go undiagnosed each year and thousands more result in  confusing or worrying findings that are not cancer or are low risk. Today we can’t easily distinguish the cancers we need to find from those that are unlikely to cause further harm. We believe that technology can help with detection, and thus improve the experience for both patients and doctors.  

Just as important as detecting cancer is determining how advanced and aggressive the cancer is. A process called staging helps determine how far the cancer has spread, which impacts the course of treatment. Staging largely depends on clinicians and radiologists looking at patient histories, physical examinations and images. In addition, pathologists examine tissue samples obtained from a biopsy to assess the microscopic appearance and biological properties of each individual patient’s cancer and judge aggressiveness. However, pathologic assessment is a laborious and costly process that--incredibly--continues to rely on an individual evaluating microscopic features in biological tissue with the human eye and microscope!

Last year, Google created a deep learning algorithm that could help pathologists assess tissue and detect the spread and extent of disease better in virtually every case. By pinpointing the location of the cancer more accurately, quickly and at a lower cost, care providers might be able to deliver better treatment for more patients. But doing this will require that these insights be paired with human intelligence and placed in the hands of skilled researchers, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and others. Google’s research showed that the best results come when medical professionals and technology work together, rather than either working alone. 

During my treatment, I was taken care of by extraordinary teams at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York where they had access to the latest developments in breast cancer care. My oncologist (and now good friend), Dr. Clifford Hudis, is now CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which has developed a nonprofit big data initiative, CancerLinQ, to give oncologists and researchers access to health information to inform better care for everyone. He told me: “CancerLinQ seeks to identify hidden signals in the routine record of care from millions of de-identified patients so that doctors have deeper and faster insights into their own practices and opportunities for improvement.” He and his colleagues don't think they’ll be able to deliver optimally without robust AI. 

What medical professionals, like Dr. Hudis and his colleagues across ASCO and CancerLinQ, and engineers at companies like Google have accomplished since the time I joined the Club in 2001 is remarkable. 

I will always remember words passed on to me by another cancer survivor, which helped me throughout my treatment. He said when you’re having a good day and you’ve temporarily pushed the disease out of your mind, a little bird might land on your shoulder to remind you that you have cancer. Eventually, that bird comes around less and less. It took many years but I am relieved to say that I haven’t seen that bird in a long time, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I am optimistic that the combination of great doctors and technology could allow us to get rid of those birds for so many more people. 

Breast cancer and tech…a reason for optimism

I was diagnosed with breast cancer twice, in 2001 and again in 2004. Thanks to early detection and access to extraordinary care—including multiple rounds of chemo, radiation and more surgery than any one person should ever have in a lifetime—I’m still here and able to write this piece. In fact, I’ve probably never been healthier. 

I remember receiving the news. I was initially terrified. Our three kids were only five, seven, and nine at the time of my first diagnosis, and all I wanted was to live to see them grow up. I’m grateful I had options and access to treatments, but no aspect of it was pleasant. Last year, I had the joy of seeing our youngest son graduate from college. In the years since I first learned of my cancer, there’s been remarkable progress in global health care, augmented with pioneering work from medical researchers and technology companies. I know how incredibly fortunate I am, but I also know that for far too many, a diagnosis comes too late and the best care is beyond reach. 

And that’s where Google has focused its work: to bring healthcare innovations to everyone.Working at Google, I have had a front-row seat to these technological breakthroughs. 

During the past few years, teams at Google have applied artificial intelligence (AI) to problems in healthcare—from predicting patient outcomes in medical records to helping detect diseases like lung cancer. We’re still early on in developing these technologies, but the results are promising. 

When it comes to breast cancer, Google is looking at how AI can help specialists improve detection and diagnosis. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women worldwide, taking the lives of more than 600,000 people each year. Thankfully, that number is on the decline because of huge advances in care. However, that number could be even lower if we continue to accelerate progress and make sure that progress reaches as many people as possible. Google hopes AI research will further fuel progress on both detection and diagnosis. 

Early detection depends on patients and technologies, such as mammography. Currently, we rely on mammograms to screen for cancer in otherwise healthy women, but thousands of cases go undiagnosed each year and thousands more result in  confusing or worrying findings that are not cancer or are low risk. Today we can’t easily distinguish the cancers we need to find from those that are unlikely to cause further harm. We believe that technology can help with detection, and thus improve the experience for both patients and doctors.  

Just as important as detecting cancer is determining how advanced and aggressive the cancer is. A process called staging helps determine how far the cancer has spread, which impacts the course of treatment. Staging largely depends on clinicians and radiologists looking at patient histories, physical examinations and images. In addition, pathologists examine tissue samples obtained from a biopsy to assess the microscopic appearance and biological properties of each individual patient’s cancer and judge aggressiveness. However, pathologic assessment is a laborious and costly process that--incredibly--continues to rely on an individual evaluating microscopic features in biological tissue with the human eye and microscope!

Last year, Google created a deep learning algorithm that could help pathologists assess tissue and detect the spread and extent of disease better in virtually every case. By pinpointing the location of the cancer more accurately, quickly and at a lower cost, care providers might be able to deliver better treatment for more patients. But doing this will require that these insights be paired with human intelligence and placed in the hands of skilled researchers, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and others. Google’s research showed that the best results come when medical professionals and technology work together, rather than either working alone. 

During my treatment, I was taken care of by extraordinary teams at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York where they had access to the latest developments in breast cancer care. My oncologist (and now good friend), Dr. Clifford Hudis, is now CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which has developed a nonprofit big data initiative, CancerLinQ, to give oncologists and researchers access to health information to inform better care for everyone. He told me: “CancerLinQ seeks to identify hidden signals in the routine record of care from millions of de-identified patients so that doctors have deeper and faster insights into their own practices and opportunities for improvement.” He and his colleagues don't think they’ll be able to deliver optimally without robust AI. 

What medical professionals, like Dr. Hudis and his colleagues across ASCO and CancerLinQ, and engineers at companies like Google have accomplished since the time I joined the Club in 2001 is remarkable. 

I will always remember words passed on to me by another cancer survivor, which helped me throughout my treatment. He said when you’re having a good day and you’ve temporarily pushed the disease out of your mind, a little bird might land on your shoulder to remind you that you have cancer. Eventually, that bird comes around less and less. It took many years but I am relieved to say that I haven’t seen that bird in a long time, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I am optimistic that the combination of great doctors and technology could allow us to get rid of those birds for so many more people.