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December 17, 2012
Largest Companies Setting Emissions Reduction Targets
    by Robert Kropp

A new report finds that most companies in the Fortune 100 and Global 100 now have greenhouse gas reduction goals, and more are committing to renewable energy use.

As recently as May of this year, Ceres was warning that the sustainability efforts of US corporations were insufficient. Only one-third of 600 companies surveyed by Ceres and Sustainalytics, for example, have set targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, stated at the time, "Sustainability has yet to gain traction at anywhere near the scale and speed required given the global threats we face."

Add to this the legislative inaction on climate change by the US Congress, as well as the repeated failure of governments to agree on binding commitments, and the world appears to be lurching toward a crisis even while the solutions to it are in plain sight.

Something of a bright spot can be discerned in a new report from Ceres, Calvert Investments, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Surveying the environmental practices of many of the world's largest companies—those listed in the Fortune 100 and Global 100—the report finds that most have set at least short-term goals for reductions in GHG emissions.

According to the report, 96 of the combined 173 companies in the Fortune 100 and Global 100 have set GHG reduction goals. A majority have established emissions reduction goals for the near term, while about one-third have done so through 2020. Less than 10% have established such goals for 2050 and beyond.

In addition, 23 companies have set specific goals for renewable energy use. "As companies become more sophisticated in their renewable energy procurement methods," the report states, "More and more of them are pursuing diversified approaches to renewable energy that often include a combination of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which are a market-based means of tracking who produces and who uses renewable energy; Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), which are contracts to buy power over a negotiated period; and on-site direct investment."

Among the persistent barriers to increased corporate uptake of renewable energy is its cost, which, the report contends, can be stabilized by consistent government policies. The report recommends that policymakers promote tax credits and other incentives for renewable energy, such as extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy in the US this year. States that have not yet established Renewable Portfolio Standards should do so.

However, "To reach the scale and pace needed to address the challenge of climate change, policies are needed that enable more companies across more sectors to use renewable energy cost-competitively," the report states. "These include market-based solutions that price negative externalities and allow businesses to find the most cost-effective measures to achieve their GHG and renewable energy commitments."

In addition to advocating for policies that encourage the transition to a low-carbon economy, companies should also set emissions reduction and renewable energy targets, and be transparent in reporting their commitments.

"The world's largest companies are expanding their use of renewable energy because it makes good business sense – they see the value in diversifying their energy supply, mitigating fuel cost risk, cutting their energy-related emissions, and, in some cases, providing a physical asset with real value for the enterprise,” Bennett Freeman, Calvert's Senior Vice President for Sustainability Research and Policy, said. "We strongly encourage all companies to set renewable energy targets and disclose these commitments, which we believe will help companies—and those who invest in them—address clear risks and seize concrete opportunities."


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