More and more businesses in the US and abroad are embracing sustainable practices as they begin to feel the impacts of the climate crisis where it matters most: their bottom lines.
As wind and solar energy achieve cost competitiveness with fossil fuels and investors wake up to the long-term risks of continuing to power their businesses in ways that impact the environment, addressing the climate crisis has become an economic imperative.
Consequently, many major businesses are embracing renewable energy in a big way, and many are finding that there’s an awful lot of green to be made in a renewable energy-powered economy.
And the best part is, you are helping them do it every day, and you might not even know it. While some companies (maybe even one or two listed here) are well-known for their commitment to climate action, others don’t get as much attention for their efforts and may come as a bit of a surprise.
So, whether you’re shopping for LED lightbulbs or cheering the power play, there’s a good chance you are supporting a major effort to go above and beyond to defend the planet and promote a safe sustainable future. Here are five we think are doing an especially great or surprising job of powering the economy with affordable clean energy.
Intel leads the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Partnership National Top 100 list, which represents the agency’s largest green power-using partners. The tech innovator is the nation’s largest voluntary corporate purchaser of green power and has been for eight consecutive years. The company met 100 percent of its US electricity use in 2015 with its purchase of 3.4 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable power, generated from wind, solar, geothermal, low-impact hydro, and biomass sources.
Last year, Intel installed the then-largest wind micro-turbine array in the US on the roof of its worldwide headquarters in Santa Clara, California. It has facilitated 18 on-site solar plants at several of its facilities, representing an installed solar capacity of approximately 7,000 kW (and growing).
Intel’s commitment to renewable energy is brought into sharp focus by its extremely straightforward Global Climate Change Policy Statement:
“Climate change is occurring and human activities have played a strong contributing role – that is the consensus among climate scientists,” the statement begins. “The main questions today concern what steps can be taken to mitigate the warming trend and help communities and regions adapt to the present-day and anticipated impacts of the warming that already is occurring. Intel Corporation believes that global climate change is a serious environmental, economic, and social challenge that warrants an equally serious response by governments and the private sector.”
The company also sees real opportunity ahead. “Government policy responses to climate change will prominently feature requirements for improvements in energy efficiency throughout the economy,” the company says. “Those requirements, in turn, will create a strong preference for more efficient electronic equipment.”
And who’s well-positioned to take advantage of that strong preference for years to come?
When you walk into Kohl’s searching for the best discount deal, solar panels are probably the furthest thing from your mind. So it may come as a shock that EPA has listed Kohl’s Department Stores as the top green power-using retailer in the country every year since 2009 in its annual Green Power Partnership Top 30 Retail ranking.
Of its 1,160 stores in 49 states, 1,001 are Energy Star-certified and 163 locations feature on-site solar panels, according to the retailer. The chain has gone to great lengths to work toward carbon-neutral operations, and was the first US retailer to announce a carbon neutral goal in partnership with EPA. It met that goal with net zero emissions from 2010–2014 – and was on track to meet it again in 2015 (the last year for which data was provided).
“As a national retailer, it is important for Kohl’s to be a good corporate citizen,” Ken Bonning, Kohl’s senior executive vice president, said. “We aim to be a corporate sustainability leader, which is demonstrated in our commitment to on-site generation thorough our solar program and a continued investment in support of green power.”
The National Hockey League
As anyone familiar with Climate Reality’s I AM PRO SNOW initiative is already well aware, winter sports and the communities they support are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis. Still, the depth of the NHL’s commitment to clean energy may be a bit of a surprise.
In 2010, the league launched NHL Green, an environmental sustainability initiative to address the effects of climate change and freshwater scarcity on the game of hockey. It was the first professional sports league in North America to issue a sustainability report, and beginning with the 2014 season, it has counterbalanced all greenhouse gas emissions from its activities.
The NHL has restored approximately 50 million gallons of fresh water to rivers and streams in North America since 2011 through its partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and last year, it became the first professional sports organization or league to make the EPA's Green Power Partnership National Top 100 list, ranking as the 17th-largest user of green power in the United States. It also earned a 2015 Green Power Leadership Award from the EPA.
“We believe that this effort is not only the right thing to do for the environment, but is also a core strategy for the long-term success of our League. We have a vested interest in this cause,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said. “As a business, we rely on freshwater to make our ice, on energy to fuel our operations, and on healthy communities for our athletes, employees and fans to live, work, and play. … As a League, we are uniquely positioned to promote the environmental message.”
Walmart’s had its share of critics over the years – and for good reason. But when it comes to using clean energy, the Arkansas chain puts a lot of companies to shame. While one of its chief competitors, Target, took the top spot as the leading US corporate solar installer in 2016 with 147.5 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity, the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, came in a close second with 145 MW. Importantly, this is the first time in the five-year history of the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) annual list of America’s leading corporate solar installers that Walmart has not taken the crown.
Walmart has been a Green Power Partner of the EPA since 2009 and ranks ninth on the agency’s current National Top 100 list, behind Apple but ahead (somewhat amusingly) of the US Department of Energy in terms of total annual green power use. Even so, while it currently obtains a large absolute amount of electricity from green power, Walmart is so massive that this power only met about 4 percent of its total US organization-wide electricity needs.
The corporation has some ambitious sustainability goals that includes a target to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy, with a number of publicly-announced commitments toward that target set for 2020, an “aspirational goal of achieving zero waste across our global operations,” and plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
President Obama even chose a Walmart in Mountain View, California, as the site of a 2013 speech about his energy plan and praised the retailer’s environmental action, saying, “A few years ago you decided to put solar panels on the roof of the store. You replaced some traditional lightbulbs with LEDs. You made refrigerator cases more efficient. And you even put in a charging station for electric vehicles. More and more companies like Walmart are realizing that wasting less energy isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for business. It’s good for the bottom line.”
Like Intel, Apple has a comprehensive climate change plan, where it identifies its carbon footprint and what it is doing to mitigate it. The tech giant has designed its in-the-works new main campus in Cupertino, California to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Which will primarily be generated at what will become one of the largest onsite corporate solar installations in the world.
Earlier this year, during Climate Week in New York City, Apple announced that it was joining the RE100 initiative, “a global, collaborative initiative of influential businesses committed to using 100-percent renewable electricity.”
“Apple is committed to running on 100 percent renewable energy, and we’re happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort,” Apple's Vice President for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson said. “We’re excited to share the industry-leading work we've been doing to drive renewable energy into the manufacturing supply chain, and look forward to partnering with RE100 to advocate for clean-energy policies around the world.”
Apple already is powering 100 percent of its operations in the US, China, and 21 other countries with renewable energy. Indeed, as of this year, renewable energy accounted for 93 percent of its global overall operations. And like Walmart and Google before it, in 2016 Apple received, according to the New York Times, “a federal designation for its energy subsidiary that allows it to become a wholesale seller of electricity from coast to coast.”
That’s right, Apple is, basically, its own green utility company, with Apple as its main customer. Pretty cool!
These business giants are demonstrating incredible leadership in the fight against the climate crisis. They are leading the charge to power our lives and economies with affordable clean energy.
Businesses like these are committed to doing their part – but they can’t do it alone.
Other businesses looking to stand apart with a reputation for innovation, values-driven operations, and forward-looking leadership can get started on the road to a clean energy future by joining Climate Reality’s 100% Committed campaign and pledging to help your business, resort, or community shift to 100-percent clean electricity.
Cities such as Salt Lake City, Utah, Aspen, Colorado, and Park City, Utah, have all committed to 100-percent renewable electricity. And so have businesses like Ski Butlers.
But for renewables to truly thrive they need the support of both industry and world leaders committed to making climate solutions a reality. That’s why we can’t allow Big Oil insiders to serve in key cabinet positions responsible for the nation’s public lands, environment, and potentially even foreign policy.
Add your name now and let the Senate know we need a qualified cabinet that will lead the US towards climate solutions and a thriving clean energy economy. Because we can’t afford to go backwards on climate action.