Author Archives: Ronan Harris

A new training programme to help small businesses reduce their carbon emissions

The climate crisis is an urgent issue for everyone. The UK government has set an ambitious target to reach net zero by 2050 and all businesses of all sizes need to play a part if we’re to reach those goals. 

This is not just about doing the right thing — today’s consumers expect action: according to research from Edelman, 80% of people want brands to solve society’s problems. 


Small businesses make up 99% of the UK’s business community so they’ll play a crucial role in reaching net zero. Yet, understandably, small businesses don’t always have the time, resources or expertise to dedicate to this — especially as they focus on recovery from the pandemic. A study from the British Chambers of Commerce and O2 found that only one in 10 small businesses are measuring their carbon footprint, and a fifth of small businesses don't fully understand the term "net zero". Cost, and an ability to understand, measure and report emissions are cited as two of the main barriers to change. 


Sustainability training for small businesses


To help small businesses overcome these obstacles, we’re announcing a new free, simple and actionable training programme to help SMEs reduce their emissions. We developed the training in partnership with leading sustainability and net zero certification group, Planet Mark, as part of the UK Government’s Together for our Planet Business Climate Leaders campaign, which encourages small businesses to commit to cutting their emissions in half by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. 


Our training is designed for small businesses starting their journey towards sustainability, with an emphasis on how a sustainability strategy can help drive business performance. It sets out the business case and imperative for cutting emissions, and explains practical, digitally-focused ways to decarbonize — from using paperless billing and Cloud-enabled technology, to renewable energy sourcing and supply chains. Since we know how much consumers care about this, it also covers how small businesses can use their sustainability credentials to differentiate. 


One business already doing this successfully is catering company, Fooditude. They made tangible changes to their business, like limiting their food waste, going paperless with admin systems and swapping to local suppliers, and reduced their emissions by over 30% per meal. Dean Kennett, Fooditude’s Managing Director, attributes £3 million in new revenue to their new sustainability credentials, as well as their ability to hire staff who share their values, and a shared purpose among employees. 

Swati Deshpande, part of the team at Fooditude

Swati Deshpande, part of the team at Fooditude

We’ll deliver the training through the Google Digital Garage, building on our experience of coaching more than 650,000 people and small businesses in the UK in digital and business skills. And we’ll lean on our expertise as leaders on climate change for over two decades, from becoming carbon neutral in 2007 to our latest and most ambitious commitment to become the first major company to operate on carbon-free energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.


We’re encouraging companies who complete the training to make a commitment to going net zero by signing up to the SME Climate Commitment, which can be found on the UK Business Climate Hub. Businesses who sign up and share their commitments will be recognized by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign initiative and inspire other businesses to take action. 


Helping SMEs track carbon emissions


Measuring carbon emissions accurately is essential if small businesses are to know if their actions make a difference, but most small businesses can’t do this alone.  That’s why we’re supporting Normative, the software platform behind the SME Climate Commitment, to help businesses track and account for their carbon emissions, making climate mitigation easier and actionable. Over the next six months, as part of the Google.org Fellowship, we’ll provide a team of 11 Googlers to work full-time, pro bono, to assist Normative with building the technical infrastructure that underpins the free-to-access platform. Normative was one of the organisations to receive a €1M grant through the Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate, which funds bold ideas that aim to use technology to accelerate Europe’s progress toward a greener, more resilient future.


We’re optimistic that by supporting organisations and technologies like these we can help small businesses make the journey towards a carbon-free future. 


How to sign up


Small businesses can sign up to the training here


Further measures to help fight financial fraud in the UK

As part of ongoing cross-industry efforts to help tackle the issue of financial fraud, we recently announced that we were the first major technology firm to join Stop Scams UK. We also pledged $5 million in advertising credits to support public awareness campaigns in the UK, helping to ensure that consumers are better informed about how to spot the tactics of scammers both online and offline.

Today, we are announcing a significant additional measure to protect users and legitimate advertisers, and help prevent scammers exploiting our platforms. The Google Ads Financial Products and Services policy will be updated from 30th August to introduce new certification requirements for financial services advertisers targeting the UK.

Financial services advertisers will be required to demonstrate that they are authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority or qualify for one of the limited exemptions described in the UK Financial Services verification page. This new update builds on significant work in partnership with the FCA over the last 18 months to help tackle this issue.

Today’s announcement reflects significant progress in delivering a safer experience for users, publishers and advertisers. While we understand that this policy update will impact a range of advertisers in the financial services space, our utmost priority is to keep users safe on our platforms — particularly in an area so disproportionately targeted by fraudsters.

Here’s what you need to know about the policy update:

  • The policy will be updated on August 30, 2021, and enforcement will begin seven days later, on September 6, 2021.
  • Advertisers must successfully complete the updated verification process by the time enforcement begins in order to show financial services ads to UK users. This will include showing ads to UK users who appear to be seeking financial services.
  • As part of the verification process, advertisers must demonstrate that they are authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority or qualify for one of the limited exemptions described in the UK Financial Services verification page. 
  • This requirement covers financial services products both regulated by and not regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.

This new policy update is only the latest step in our commitment to tackling online financial crime in the UK. Our teams continue to use a mixture of machine learning and human review to analyse user experiences and take action. 

For the last 18 months, we have worked with the FCA to receive notifications when additions are made to the FCA warning list. Based on feedback from the FCA, we have also updated policies, such as our unreliable claims policy. This update restricted the rates of return a firm can advertise and banned the use of terms that make unrealistic promises of large financial return with minimal risk, effort or investment.

Globally, we have also introduced new advertiser identity verification which requires advertisers to submit personal legal identification, business incorporation documents or other information that proves who they are and the country in which they operate. 

We are committed to adapting and collaborating with industry and government organisations to lead on necessary changes to help fight evolving tactics by scammers.


Google Career Certificates launch in the UK

Today, we’re launching U.K.-wide Google Career Certificates in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 

With people in the U.K. gaining the opportunity to explore new freedoms each week, we know that many people, through both necessity and personal drive, are looking for ways to grow skill sets to prepare for the jobs of the present and the future. 

Technology and automation were already fundamentally changing the way we work, a trend only accelerated by the additional upheaval of jobs markets due to the pandemic. In fact, research conducted by Google and The McKinsey Global Institute before COVID-19 shows that, to ensure job creation, more than 90 million workers may need to develop significant new skills by 2030.

Our Search data in the U.K. suggests we’re already looking to get ahead of this with an increase in Searches for ‘information technology online course’ up 780%, ‘business management course online’ up 296% and ‘online courses with certificates’ up 259% in just the last week alone. 

On top of this, people are turning to the internet to ask their most pressing questions about ‘skills' with some top-ranked questions in Search being ‘How to improve leadership skills?’ ‘How to improve problem solving skills?’ and ‘How to improve communication skills?’

To support the need to learn these new skills, we’re distributing 9,500 Google Career Certificate scholarships in the U.K. through government partnerships with the DWP (9,000) and Camden Council (500). We’re also providing grant funding to The Prince’s Trust and INCO Academy via Google.org to ensure that an additional 1,500 young people from underrepresented and disadvantaged communities across the U.K. can take advantage of the training opportunity.  

Those who sign up to Google Career Certificates can select any number of the four courses available to help grow the necessary skills to support a career in technology. The courses available include IT Support, Data Analyst, Project Manager and UX Designer. Typically learners take up to six months to complete the course, no degree level experience is needed and they’re recognised by industry experts and employers, including Google. 

We know that technology is only becoming more important for the U.K. economy. The amount technology contributes to the UK economy has grown on average by 7% year on year since 2016. And U.K.-based venture capital investment is third in the world, reaching a record high of $15 billion in 2020, despite the challenging conditions. 

As the U.K. embarks upon the biggest recovery challenge in recent history, technology must help everyone, no matter their location, race, age or education level. We must harness the opportunity to prepare people across the country for the jobs of the not-so-distant future. We hope that with these new efforts and the support of our public sector partners, even more people can develop the skills to thrive and continue growing their careers through technology.

Helping protect people from financial fraud in the U.K.

Over the last few years, people in the U.K. have been targeted by increasingly sophisticated scammers on and offline. According to UK Finance, in 2020, total fraud loss was £1.26 billion. Criminal gangs are using multiple malicious methods, including phishing emails, spoof phone calls and texts, shopping scams and impersonation scams, as well as scam advertising on social media and search engines.

Joining efforts to collaborate across industries

Tackling the scale of this problem requires collaboration across government, the financial services industry, the telecommunications industry, the tech industry and law enforcement. To play our part in this effort, we have become the first major technology company to join Stop Scams UK and will develop and share best practices with existing members from financial services and telecoms industries.


We also understand the importance of ensuring people are informed about how to spot the tactics of scammers and avoid falling victim to fraud, which is why we have pledged $5 million in advertising credits to support public awareness campaigns. The ads credits will be offered to cross-industry organisations already campaigning on this issue, as well as government bodies undertaking awareness campaigns.

Strengthening measures to protect U.K. consumers

As well as better equipping people to spot a scam, we know how vital it is to protect people from fraud. Over the next few months we will be developing and rolling out further restrictions to financial services advertising in the UK to protect consumers and legitimate advertisers.

The new measures build on significant work we have done to date to help stop financial scammers in the U.K., working closely with the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority):

  • In early 2020, we worked with the FCA to receive notifications when additions are made to the FCA warning list. There are more than 4,000 websites on the warning list.
  • Over the past year, we introduced several verification processes to learn more about the advertisers and their business operations. During the verification period, we pause advertiser accounts if their advertising or business practices are suspected of causing harm. We are currently requiring all UK financial services advertisers to complete these programs in order to run ads.
  • We updated our unreliable claims policy to restrict the rates of return a firm can advertise and ban the use of terms that make unrealistic promises of large financial return with minimal risk, effort or investment. 
  • We recently undertook a review of user experiences that tend to be targeted in the UK by bad actors and have introduced further restrictions, preventing ads from showing on those searches.

Globally, Google has also introduced new advertiser identity verification and rolled this out across the U.K. beginning earlier this year. Advertisers now need to submit personal legal identification, business incorporation documents or other information that proves who they are and the country in which they operate. This means Google can more effectively determine bad actors in the ecosystem from the start.

Ready to respond to evolving scammer tactics

At Google, thousands of people work around the clock to deliver a safe experience for users, creators, publishers and advertisers. Our teams use a mix of technology, including sophisticated machine learning, and human review to enforce our policies. This combination of technology and talent means policy violations can be spotted and action can be taken to remove bad ads.


Our teams are working hard on this issue because we all want U.K. consumers to feel safe and protected when they are managing their finances. Even as attempts by scammers evolve, we will continue to take strong action and work in partnership with others to help keep consumers safe.


Google News Showcase is launching in the U.K.

Today, we’re announcing that Google News Showcase, our new product experience and licensing program for news, will begin rolling out with local, national and independent publishers in the U.K. As part of our licensing agreements with publishers, we're also launching the ability for readers to access select paywall content. This feature will give readers the opportunity to read more of a publisher’s content than they would otherwise have access to, while enabling publishers to encourage readers to become a subscriber. 

In the U.K, Google has signed partnerships with publishers such as Archant, DC Thomson, Evening Standard, The Financial Times, Iliffe Media, The Independent, Midland News Association, New Statesman, Newsquest, JPI Media, Reach, The Telegraph and Reuters. In total, more than 120 publications in the U.K. will start curating content for News Showcase, many of them local newspapers who do not have the same resources that many larger, national papers have to invest in their digital transformation.

"We welcome this initiative and its potential to give public interest journalism a more visible platform in Google,” says David Higgerson, Chief Audience Officer of Reach, the largest commercial publisher in the U.K, with many regional and national brands. “For us, public interest journalism thrives when it is not just about recording events but is of genuine interest to the public and is able to attract an audience that means it is sustainable. Google's work here will help give readers a new way to discover news which is important to them, which they may not otherwise have discovered."

Globally, there are now more than 450 news publications in Google News Showcase in over a dozen countries including Australia, Germany, Brazil, Canada, France, Japan, U.K. and Argentina with discussions underway in a number of other countries.

“Google News Showcase extends The Independent’s well established partnership with Google, delivering on  the brand’s diversified strategy to develop data-rich, engaged customer relationships, licensing revenues and digital subscriptions,” says Zach Leonard, Chief Executive of The Independent. “We’re thrilled to join the platform as it rolls out."

A GIF of what Google News Showcase panels will look like for UK partners

An example of how News Showcase story panels will look with some of our UK publishing partners

With News Showcase panels, editors at news organizations can help explain complicated news topics and bring context to readers looking to understand more. News Showcase panels display an enhanced view of an article or articles, giving participating publishers more ways to bring important news to readers and explain it in their own voice, along with more direct control of presentation and branding. 

"We have a longstanding partnership with Google and we are pleased to be launch partners for News Showcase,” says Chris Taylor, COO, The Telegraph. “We welcome the registration and subscription sampling opportunities that News Showcase will provide to Google users and we are confident that many of them will go on to become Telegraph subscribers."

News Showcase content from our publisher partners will automatically start to appear in panels in Google News and Discover, and direct readers to the full article on the publisher’s site. People will see panels from publishers they follow in their personalised feeds and they might also see panels from publishers they’re less familiar with, presented as suggestions in the Google News “For You” feed and inside “Newsstand,” the discovery area of Google News. Panels are already appearing in Google News on Android, iOS and the mobile web, and in Discover on iOS, and will start appearing in other versions of these products soon.

Different News Showcase panel layouts from UK publishers

An example of different New Showcase panel layouts from our publishing partners in the UK. 

“We are excited to be working with Google News Showcase and we hope to see new audiences coming to our sites through the partnership,” says Richard Neville, Head of Newspapers at DC Thomson, publishers of regional newspapers and magazines. “We are always looking for innovative ways to increase engagement and expand our ability to attract subscribers and I’m sure this will help us on both counts.”

These latest News Showcase partnerships build on the work that Google has done for nearly 20 years, in particular to support local journalism in the U.K. In January this year, we announced our support for an online portal for public notices to help preserve an important source of funding for U.K. local publishers. Last year, we funded 104 small and medium local newsrooms across the U.K. through our Journalism Emergency Relief Fund and we introduced the Digital Growth Programme, a free training program to help establish and grow the online business of small-to-medium sized news publishers who have more recently started developing their digital platforms. Forty-nine UK publishers have already taken part in the Digital Growth program.

As new partners from around the world continue to sign on to Google News Showcase, we’ll work to incorporate their feedback as we build out new, innovative features. Alongside governments, other companies and civic society, we're dedicated to continuing to support the sustainability of the news industry both in the UK and around the world.



Improving our brand safety controls

From our founding days at Google, our mission has always been to make information universally accessible and useful. We believe strongly in the freedom of speech and expression on the web—even when that means we don’t agree with the views expressed.

At the same time, we recognize the need to have strict policies that define where Google ads should appear. The intention of these policies is to prohibit ads from appearing on pages or videos with hate speech, gory or offensive content. In the vast majority of cases, our policies work as intended. We invest millions of dollars every year and employ thousands of people to stop bad advertising practices. Just last year, we removed nearly 2 billion bad ads from our systems, removed over 100,000 publishers from our AdSense program, and prevented ads from serving on over 300 million YouTube videos.

However, with millions of sites in our network and 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, we recognize that we don't always get it right. In a very small percentage of cases, ads appear against content that violates our monetization policies. We promptly remove the ads in those instances, but we know we can and must do more.

We’ve heard from our advertisers and agencies loud and clear that we can provide simpler, more robust ways to stop their ads from showing against controversial content. While we have a wide variety of tools to give advertisers and agencies control over where their ads appear, such as topic exclusions and site category exclusions, we can do a better job of addressing the small number of inappropriately monetized videos and content. We’ve begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear across YouTube and the Google Display Network.

We are committed to working with publishers, advertisers and agencies to address these issues and earn their trust every day so that they can use our services both successfully and safely.

Improving our brand safety controls

From our founding days at Google, our mission has always been to make information universally accessible and useful. We believe strongly in the freedom of speech and expression on the web—even when that means we don’t agree with the views expressed.

At the same time, we recognize the need to have strict policies that define where Google ads should appear. The intention of these policies is to prohibit ads from appearing on pages or videos with hate speech, gory or offensive content. In the vast majority of cases, our policies work as intended. We invest millions of dollars every year and employ thousands of people to stop bad advertising practices. Just last year, we removed nearly 2 billion bad ads from our systems, removed over 100,000 publishers from our AdSense program, and prevented ads from serving on over 300 million YouTube videos.

However, with millions of sites in our network and 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, we recognize that we don't always get it right. In a very small percentage of cases, ads appear against content that violates our monetization policies. We promptly remove the ads in those instances, but we know we can and must do more.

We’ve heard from our advertisers and agencies loud and clear that we can provide simpler, more robust ways to stop their ads from showing against controversial content. While we have a wide variety of tools to give advertisers and agencies control over where their ads appear, such as topic exclusions and site category exclusions, we can do a better job of addressing the small number of inappropriately monetized videos and content. We’ve begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear across YouTube and the Google Display Network.

We are committed to working with publishers, advertisers and agencies to address these issues and earn their trust every day so that they can use our services both successfully and safely.