In 2015, a nonprofit group of leaders called the B Team, led by Richard Branson, created an agreement they called “Net-Zero by 2050.” It called for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a decidedly ambitious goal. They sent a letter to Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), “calling on governments and businesses to commit to bold action” at the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris that same year.
San Francisco-based Salesforce, a cloud computing company, was one of a handful that signed on for the B Team's net-zero GHG target. But it wasn’t content to wait until 2050. A few weeks ago, the company announced it achieved its net-zero goal 33 years sooner than promised.
Salesforce’s path to achieving net-zero emissions hinges on three approaches: avoid, reduce and mitigate. Its core platform is 50 times more environmentally friendly on average than on-premise solutions, the company claimed in its 2015/2016 Stakeholder Impact report. And its customers avoid emitting over 2 million metric tons of carbon a year by moving to the cloud.
Salesforce reduces emissions through investing in green office spaces and improving data center efficiency, and it mitigates emissions by procuring renewable energy. Back in 2013, the company committed to power all data center operations with renewable energy, and in 2015 expanded that commitment to its entire global operations. Last year, Salesforce procured 37 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, mainly through purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs). It bolstered its portfolio with wind energy power purchase agreements in West Virginia and Texas late last year, which are expected to generate 227,000 MWh of clean power annually.
Purchasing carbon credits equal to operational emissions the company can't avoid or reduce helped Salesforce achieved net-zero GHG emissions. Those carbon credits support sustainable development projects such as Proyecto Mirador, a Cool Effect project in Honduras. Through the project, families are supplied with bricks and mortar to build stoves that can cut wood use in half. Through the use of cleaner stoves, each family prevents about 3 tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere every year -- totaling 1 million tons of carbon since the project began.
Salesforce also supports solar water heating in India, where electric water heaters in homes, universities and commercial buildings are replaced with solar water heaters. In India, 20 to 30 percent of electricity is used to heat water.
Salesforce proves business can lead the wayWhile Salesforce continues to take bold action on climate change, the Donald Trump administration appears committed to climate change denial.
Critics note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website has been scrubbed of any mention of climate change. The EPA stated in a press release that it is “undergoing changes that reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt.” The process of modifying the EPA website includes “updating language to reflect the approach of new leadership.”
In stark contrast, Salesforce proves that when government fails to address a major issue, business can successfully step in.
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Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.