At the White House on July 27, 13 of the nation’s biggest companies added their names to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, promising to take a range of actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, to make their daily operations more sustainable, and to encourage other companies to do the same. Some of the specific activities they promised to do are not new, but the the pledge is considered an important step in the nation’s move toward sustainability, clean technology and renewable energy.
Here is a breakdown of each of the 13 companies making the pledge, including details on what they promised at the White House and what they’ve done so far.
The company had already promised that, by 2020, its global greenhouse gas emissions would be down 30% from their 2005 levels; Alcoa now says it will cut that 2005 baseline 50% by 2025. It reduced its carbon emissions by 7% between 2013 and 2014, the company says, and its emissions are down nearly 26% from 2005, putting it well on its way to meet those 2020 and 2025 goals.
Alcoa said last year it was working with Phinergy to further develop that company’s aluminum-air batteries, which offer high energy density storage. Alcoa is also taking advantage of a federal loan program to upgrade a factory that makes high-strength aluminum, which the company intends to be used in part to replace heavier steel in cars and trucks and thus improve their gas mileage.
All of the company’s U.S. operations are already running on 100% renewable energy, and Apple will bring about 280 megawatts of renewable power online by the end of next year through power plants it’s building in five U.S. states, as well as two large solar plants in Sichuan Province, China. Apple is also building two huge data centers in Europe — one in Ireland and one in Denmark — that will both be powered entirely by renewable energy.
On a smaller scale, Apple has taken sustainable steps like starting an in-house car-share program with Local Motion and acquiring LuxVue Technologies, which makes energy efficient micro-LED based displays for consumer electronics. Apple has reduced its overall greenhouse gas emissions from its data centers, retail stores and corporate offices worldwide by 48% since 2011, which led Greenpeace to name Apple the “greenest tech company” in the world this year — a sharp turnaround from 2011, when Greenpeace said Apple was the “least clean” tech company.
BANK OF AMERICA
The bank has financed low-carbon activities to the tune of $39 billion since 2007, including $12 billion in 2014. Of that latter figure, 40% went to renewable energy and 33% went to financing energy efficiency. B of A has now pledged to boost its environmental business initiative from $50 billion to $125 billion by 2025. It says it will reach that figure through lending, capital raising, investing, advisory services and developing financing solutions for its clients.
Last September, Bank of America announced plans to attract $10B of new investments into energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy access. Through its new Catalytic Finance Initiative, the bank committed $1B to develop investment structures and de-risking tools and will work with development finance institutions, insurance firms, foundations, impact investors, and institutional investors on the initiative.
In 2013, Bank of America issued what it says is the first-ever corporate green bond, which was used to finance renewable energy projects and energy efficiency programs like building insulation, lighting retrofits and co-generation. This past May, the bank issued its second green bond, for $600 million, to finance additional projects.
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY ENERGY
The company will invest up to $15 billion in renewable energy generation, on top of the $15 billion it has already invested in such projects. It’s promising to build an additional 552 megawatts of wind generation in Iowa through its MidAmerican Energy Co. subsidiary, and to add 1,000 megawatts of incremental solar and wind capacity to PacifiCorp through long-term power purchase agreements. It will also shut down more than 75% of its coal burning generating capacity in Nevada by 2019.
Berkshire Hathaway Energy says it will also invest in transmission infrastructure in the Midwest and the West so that renewable energy can more easily be integrated into the grid. Key areaas of focus include: solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy. The company created a subsidiary, BHE Renewables, to smooth Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s move into unregulated renewable energy markets
Moving into batteries, Berkshire acquired Duracell from Procter & Gamble in September, 2014.
Cargill set a series of goals around energy efficiency and carbon emissions in 2005, and has now pledged a series of five-year goals, including increasing its use of renewable energy from 14% of total energy use today to 18%, and to improve greenhouse gas intensity, freshwater efficiency and energy efficiency, each by 5%, by 2020.
In Europe, its production facilities use clean energy technologies such as combined heat-and-power units. And in North America Cargill meat plants reclaim methane from our waste water lagoons and and use the biogas to fuel its plants.
The company is also working to reduce the impact of palm oil plantations by creating a “traceable and transparent” supply chain. Cargill is a member of the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, which works to help farmers measure and reduce their carbon emissions by developing farm-level sustainability metrics.
And last month, the company developed a partnership with renewable chemical maker Genomatica, which develops green chemicals from renewable feedstocks such as sugar and garbage, to provide feedstock in order to speed up the development and production of renewable chemicals for industrial applications.
The beverage giant says it will cut its carbon footprint by 25% over the next five years. The company has also been working to reduce the water footprint of its production facilities for the past 10 years or so, aiming for greater efficiency and, where possible, eliminating the use of water in production processes. For instance, Coca-Cola used to use water to move bottles around its bottling plants, but it now uses a lubricant fluid, thus avoiding the use of water in that stage of the bottling process.
Overseeing these efforts is Coca-Cola’s chief sustainability officer, Beatriz Perez, who took that title in 2011 after a stint as the company’s chief marketing officer. Perez is charged with integrating sustainability initiatives across the company’s operations, including the areas of water, packaging and recycling, and is developing programs for sustainable water use in China.
The company has set a series of goals for 2020, including reducing both carbon intensity and energy intensity from its facilities by 20% each from 2010 levels, reducing water intensity by 15% from 2010 levels, cutting total waste by 40% from 2010 levels, and having 150 of its facilities be landfill-free, with a goal of eventually having zero landfill waste from any of its manufacturing plants.
GM already reduced energy use at its facilities by 28% between 2005 and 2010 by using things like energy-efficient lights, more efficient heating and cooling systems, and simply shutting down equipment when it was not in use. It’s now using wind power to run some of its plants, including a facility in Mexico that is running on mostly renewable energy, and is also working on an all-electric car that could run 200 miles per charge and cost just $30,000, much cheaper than Tesla Motors’ Model S electric car.
In 2012, Goldman set a goal of financing and investing $40 billion in solar, wind, biofuels, hydro, energy efficiency, biomass, energy storage, LEDs and transmission by 2022. It’s already put $33 billion into that program and expects to hit the target within the next year. The firm will then set a larger target that it will pledge to hit by 2025. Goldman Sachs is also working to reduce its own carbon footprint, and is targeting carbon neutrality in its operations and business travel this year and beyond. The firm is aiming to use renewable energy for all of its electricity needs while also cutting energy use at its facilities by 10%, by 2020.
In July, Goldman announced its asset management division would be acquiring impact investment firm Imprint Capital and will incorporate ESG factors into all of its investment activities. The company was also one of three lead managers in the issuance of the first floating-rate green bonds, valued at $550 million, last year.
Like Apple, Google has made large strides toward having all of its data centers and other operations be powered exclusively by renewable energy, and has bought 1.1 gigawatts of renewable energy to date. It says it will triple its renewable energy purchases by 2025 and is also investing $2 billion in “transformative global clean energy projects,” including in emerging markets. Earlier this year, Google invested $300 million into a $750 million SolarCity fund aimed at financing residential solar projects — the company’s largest-ever investment in renewable energy.
Google’s acquisitions include Nest Labs, which makes sensor-driven, self-learning thermostats and smoke detectors, and Titan Aerospace, whose drones can provide data to improve agriculture practices. The company also works to reduce its own water consumption — particularly in its drought-stricken home state of California — and emphasizes carpooling, biking and electric vehicle shuttles to lessen the carbon impact of its employees.
Microsoft says it will ensure its data centers, offices, manufacturing plants, air travel and laboratories are all carbon neutral, and it is moving toward using 100% renewable energy to power all of those facilities. Among its efforts is a 20-year agreement, signed in 2013, to buy 110 megawatts of wind power for a data center in San Antonio. It’s also powering a data center in Cheyenne, Wyoming, through biogas from a wastewater treatment plant.
Company founder and technology advisor Bill Gates is also doing his part: he’s said he plans to invest $1 billion of his personal fortune into cleantech and related companies in the next five years — on top of about $1 billion in such investments he’s already made. He is also using his influence to encourage governments to trim renewable energy subsidies and instead to invest more in basic research, which he thinks will have more of an impact.
PepsiCo says it will cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from its global fleet of trucks and other delivery vehicles by using more electric, hybrid, compressed natural gas and other alternative fuel vehicles, and will also improve the fuel efficiency of all of its vehicles. On the other end of the production chain, it promises to ensure, by the end of next year, sustainable farming practices on 500,000 acres of farmland used by its suppliers of corn, potatoes, oats and citrus fruits. It’s also striving to reach zero deforestation anywhere in its global business operations and supply chain by 2020.
The company has been working to make sure its coolers, vending machines and other point-of-sale equipment are free of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) and has a goal of making all new equipment HFC-free by 2020. PepsiCo is also taking steps to increase the amount of recycled content in its packaging through its membership in the Closed Loop Fund, which will invest $100 million in recycling infrastructure and services over the next five years. .
UPS has cut the carbon intensity of its global fleet of trucks and planes by 10%, and actually hit that goal in 2013, three years ahead of its 2016 target. The company is now aiming at a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. It’ll do that in part by growing its fleet of alternative fuel trucks, which will number 7,700 by the end of this year. Using renewable natural gas (RNG) from Clean Energy Fuels Corp. as a fuel is a major component of this plan.
UPS is also focusing on using big data to optimize package movement to help minimize its energy usage; to that end, last month the company said it would be acquiring Coyote Logistics, a third-party logistics company that focuses on transportation services for shippers. UPS is also investing in energy conservation measures at its warehouses and other facilities and in its daily operations.
Green roofs and renewable energy are key components of Walmart’s sustainability programs. In 2014, Walmart used 9% less energy per square foot than it did in 2010, and 26% of its electricity came from renewables. It plans to boost that latter number until it gets all of its electricity from renewable sources. It will double the number of solar projects at its US stores and distribution centers — the company has set a goal to produce or buy 7 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy by 2020 — and is looking to become a zero-waste company overall.
So far, Walmart installed a 1 MW onsite wind turbine and has overseen 1 billion KW hours of clean energy, 20 solar installations, 5 fuel cells, 17 EV stations, 2 battery storage pilot projects, and the installations of 13 MW of installed renewable capacity, according to Kirstin Gunderson, senior manager of renewable energy at Walmart.
Walmart has also been keeping its greenhouse gas emissions flat, even as the company has continued to grow, and is working with suppliers to cut emissions in its global supply chain by 20% this year.