Corporate America Steps Up During Climate Week

The combination of the Pope’s visit, Climate Week NYC and news of China planning a national cap and trade program has made last week huge in terms of support for climate action. But it’s also been a week of great sustainability news coming out of corporate America, and I’m excited to see the momentum building.

  • Companies publicly stating aggressive, science-based sustainability goals? Check.
  • Big brands supporting the Clean Power Plan? Check.
  • Business committing to set an internal price on carbon? Check.
  • Increasing commitment to sourcing 100% of energy from renewables? Check.

Like I said, it’s been a really good week. After 18 years as a sustainability advocate, I’m encouraged to see companies continuing to step up their leadership on climate— making public, science-based commitments and increasingly creating an environment where denial and delay by private and public sector leaders is no longer acceptable. Many of the companies who have made commitments, (this week, before this week, and hopefully leading into COP21), are demonstrating that tending one’s own sustainability garden is necessary but no longer sufficient—corporate leaders of today and tomorrow need to collaborate with each other for greater impact and assert public policy leadership as well.

Staples leads on Clean Power Plan

Solar panels installed on Staples' headquarters (Credit: Staples)

Solar panels installed at Staples corporate headquarters (Credit: Staples)

In addition to joining a sign-on letter with over 350 companies to support the Clean Power Plan, Staples VP of Environmental Affairs Mark Buckley authored an op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer — sharing not only what Staples has been doing to tackle its own climate change impacts, but digging into how state energy policies can help or hurt its ability to meet those goals.

Previously, Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards helped Staples and other Ohio-based companies invest in clean energy and making their facilities in the state more efficient.

But when Ohio froze both standards this year, it jeopardized companies’ ability to finance these kinds of projects. In defending the Clean Power Plan, Buckley praised the flexibility it offers states on implementation, stating it will “foster much-needed policies that will give employers and businesses like Staples greater predictability in both our cost and choice of energy.”

Siemens commits to be carbon-neutral by 2030

SiemenslogoSiemens also stepped forward this week with an op-ed in the New York Times. In it, Siemens Chief Executive Jeff Kaeser committed the company to cut its carbon footprint in half in the next five years, and to make itself carbon neutral by 2030. Siemens aims to get there by replacing fleet vehicles worldwide with more-efficient models, increasing the energy efficiency, investing its own clean energy generation, and buying clean power.

The key point here is that companies are taking the long view on their carbon exposure and making investments to reduce them – which, in Siemens’ case, totals $110 million that its expects to pay back within 5 years and offer $20 million in annual savings afterward.

Momentum building for a price on carbon

The number of companies setting an internal price on carbon tripled this year to 435, as reported recently by CDP; setting a carbon price is helping companies set a value on the external impacts of carbon emissions and better guide investments in projects to mitigate them. Big companies included in this year’s report include Enbridge, AkzoNobel, Hitachi Chemical Company, and National Grid. Further, CDP reports that 538 companies plan to use carbon pricing within the next two years.

carbon-tax-reduces-profitMeanwhile, a recent World Bank report found that, since 2012, the number of carbon pricing schemes implemented or planned globally doubled, with 40 nations and 23 cities, states or regions using a carbon price. Existing schemes are now worth about $50 billion and represent 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions (or 7 billion tons of CO2).

Both reports are signals of a growing demand – and planning for – a price on carbon; forward-looking businesses are both looking to mitigate their own risks and want to send a signal to the parties negotiating in Paris that not only are they able to manage with a price on carbon, they’re already moving to do so.

In addition, on Sept. 28th, six of the largest U.S. commercial and investment banks – JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — called for a “strong global climate agreement” at this year’s climate talks in Paris and policies that “recognize the cost of carbon.” In their announcement, the banks — all competitors in the marketplace — said with one voice that “policy frameworks that recognize the costs of carbon are among many important instruments needed to provide greater market certainty, accelerate investment, drive innovation in low carbon energy, and create jobs.”

Momentum is also building for renewables

This week, Amazon, DuPont, Equinix, Etsy, Intuit, Microsoft, Sealed Air, Starbucks, and Starwood all publicly signed onto the WWF and WRI Buyer’s Principles initiative that aims to make renewable energy easier for companies to procure at a large-scale. These companies join 32 other leading companies, in all representing a demand of more than 30 million MWh of renewable energy.

RE100TCGAlso, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Salesforce, Starbucks, Steelcase, Voya Financial, and Walmart joined RE100, pledging to source 100% of their electricity from renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions and seize the business benefits.

RE100 is an ambitious global campaign led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, to engage, support and showcase influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity. When RE100 was launched one year ago at Climate Week NYC 2014, there were 13 original corporate partners  Now 36 major businesses from around the world have joined the campaign, including:  IKEA Group, Swiss Re, BT Group, Formula E, H&M, KPN, Nestlé, Philips, RELX Group, J. Safra Sarasin, Unilever and YOOX Group, UBS, and Royal DSM.

As we continue to plan for COP21 in Paris, we want to see this terrific momentum for climate leadership continue to build. And we need your help.  Here are some ways that leading companies can step up and lead the way to a thriving low carbon future:

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