Corporations: Unlikely Heroes in America’s Quest for Climate Action

By Marty Spitzer

Major U.S. companies have been supporting climate action and investing in renewable energy for decades. IBM set a greenhouse gas emission reduction goal in 1998. Johnson & Johnson set one in 2000 and invested in its first solar project a year later. But a lot has changed since those early days.  What began as a vocal minority is now a loud and steady chorus.

Today, companies realize there is real money to be saved by embracing energy efficiency and reducing emissions. By investing in renewable energy, corporations can lock in cheaper energy prices and reduce the risk of market volatility.

These economic benefits of investing in renewables and greening their operations and supply chains have made companies active leaders in the U.S. climate movement. Regardless of the incoming administration’s position on climate change, American corporations’ significant renewable energy and efficiency goals are essential in America’s ability to meet and beat our domestic climate pledges.

Nearly half of America’s Fortune 500 companies have set climate or renewable energy goals. And now we’re seeing the scale of their corporate targets become more aggressive. Thirty-five U.S. companies, including P&G, Walmart, PepsiCo and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have either set or committed to set science-based renewable energy and emissions targets aligned with the path recommended at the international climate talks. And more and more companies are pledging to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy.

There’s another growing trend afoot: U.S. companies are more willing to exert their considerable influence to demand policy change to safeguard prosperity. Two weeks ago, over 700 companies reaffirmed their support for a low-carbon United States and for the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

The diversity of companies that signed the statement, in addition to those making ambitious science-based targets and renewable energy commitments, shows businesses backing climate action isn’t just a trend among Silicon Valley tech companies and consumer-facing brands. Some of America’s biggest-name manufacturers and retailers are pushing the envelope.

But, with all these companies moving to meet ambitious climate targets, corporate buyers will need greater access to renewable energy from the grid and greater choice in offerings from utility providers.

It’s why corporate buyers outlined their priorities for utilities, utility regulators and the renewable energy marketplace in an open statement. Sixty-five companies now support the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, including PepsiCo and TD Bank that came on board this week. Collectively, these 65 companies are seeking enough renewable energy equivalent to powering 4.4 million American homes.

Business investments in a clean-energy future may be driven by the bottom line, but they comprise a critical piece of a larger shift in the world. Sharply declining prices of wind and solar energy have converged with a global scientific consensus on the perils of a warming planet. This convergence is pushing climate action forward with irreversible momentum.

Now it’s up to all of us – from corporations to states, cities and civil society – to help accelerate this transformation by demonstrating our vocal and visible support for action and illuminating a clear business case for developing an American economy focused on a low-carbon future: one that is powered by clean and renewable energy sources.

If we can do that, we will provide Americans with new jobs and homegrown industries, more secure and healthier communities, and a more stable climate.

Image credit: Pixabay

Marty Spitzer is World Wildlife Fund’s senior director of climate and renewable energy.

Climate & Environment

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