Business leadership on climate and clean energy is blooming this spring

The momentum driving companies to cut carbon emissions shows no signs of slowing down, despite the lack of leadership from Washington, D.C.:

Most important, businesses increasingly see public policy as critical to achieving their climate and clean energy goals. Last month, leading companies including Apple, Google, Mars, Danone, Nestle, Unilever and American Eagle Outfitters filed comments with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), opposing repeal of the Clean Power Plan and affirming their support for policies that drive down emissions and increase access to renewable energy.

Here are three key takeaways from these developments.

1. Renewable energy is good for business and the U.S. economy.

There was a common theme across all of the company comments on the Clean Power Plan: investing in renewable energy makes good business sense.

Google shared that its purchases of renewable energy “are not only consistent with but promote economic growth … Google’s purchases have resulted in the creation of 2,800 direct jobs during the construction phase of these projects and an estimated 520 additional ongoing jobs. Accordingly, Google’s experience has shown that procuring and deploying renewable energy is not only environmentally effective but also a good business strategy.”

Google even argued for strengthening the Clean Power Plan’s emission reduction targets.

Apple noted, “The availability of electricity generated from clean energy sources provides businesses with powerful tools to control a significant component of their cost structure, thereby helping them be more competitive on a global scale.”

The Deloitte report echoed these comments, finding that nearly 60 percent of businesses surveyed are generating some renewable energy onsite citing the advantages of price certainty, diversification of energy supply, cost savings, and resiliency.

These trends are borne out at the macro level. An Environmental Defense Fund report revealed that clean energy jobs outnumber coal and gas jobs 1.5 to 1, while a new E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) analysis shows that nearly 3.2 million Americans now work in clean energy jobs.

2. Stakeholders are demanding progress on climate and clean energy

Victoria Mills, Managing Director, EDF+Business

As Google notes in its comments to the EPA, “Increasingly, public- and private-sector customers expect large businesses to use more clean energy, reduce GHG emissions, and promote sustainability. In addition, investors in publicly traded companies are increasingly evaluating climate change-related risks in choosing where to invest their money, and leadership in clean energy deployment can help to attract capital.”

The Deloitte report also pointed out that 70 percent of businesses say their customers are demanding that they procure a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, a ten percent increase from just last year.

Millennials, in particular, care deeply about climate change and are significantly more likely to support companies they perceive to have strong environmental values. This theme is not lost on business leaders. In EDF’s recent innovation report, 84% of executives surveyed said that having sustainable business practices helps them attract and retain top talent.

3. Sustainability leadership requires constructive engagement in public policy

It’s no longer enough for companies to tend their own sustainability garden. Investors and stakeholders are increasingly scrutinizing companies’ engagement in public policy, and demanding consistency with their sustainability goals. Customers and employees also broadly support policies that cut carbon pollution and protect human health.

Apple’s comment on the Clean Power Plan notes that “although some states, cities and industry leaders are moving ahead with strategies to reduce their carbon footprints, tackling climate change requires coordinated governmental leadership and action at state, national, and global levels.”

Mars, Danone, Nestle USA and Unilever add that “it is clear we need global and national policies that drive the systemic change necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with what the science says is necessary.”

It’s so encouraging to see leading companies weighing in on the Clean Power Plan, and investing in renewables.

These companies recognize that their individual efforts are important, but we can’t deliver the scale or pace of emissions reductions needed without effective climate and energy policies.