Why do Companies Engage in Sustainable Activites?

A growing number of companies are committing to clean energy and procuring their electricity from renewable sources such as solar, hydro and wind. Those at the forefront include Apple, which has reached 96 percent renewable energy used by their facilities worldwide. GE is integrating sustainability into their core business strategy. In a Letter from the CEO, GE's Jeffrey Immelt set goals "to reduce our freshwater use and GHG emissions by 20% from a 2011 baseline by 2020".


IKEA, Facebook, Starbucks and Johnson & Johnson are among the 96 high profile companies that have made a commitment to go "100% Renewable" as part of the collaborative global initiative, RE100.


With the recent Trump administration announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, even more public companies are stepping up to say they need to provide leadership in the area of climate change even if the government is not.


Many people, particularly on the east and west coasts, are very supportive of companies that share their values regarding climate change initiatives. Yet, does someone in Gary, Indiana or Tulsa, Oklahoma feel the same way? Is there actually a business risk for companies that are focused on addressing climate change, presumably to the detriment of the fossil fuel industries that are relied upon for employment?


According to Adam Vaughan's article in The Guardian, Marc Oman, EU Energy Lead at Google, the world's biggest corporate buyer of renewable energy, stated, “We are convinced this is good for business, this is not about greenwashing. This is about locking in prices for us in the long term. Increasingly, renewable energy is the lowest cost option. Our founders are convinced climate change is a real, immediate threat, so we have to do our part.”

Perhaps the GE Chairman's letter says it best, “The global landscape is changing. Digital is creating world-changing innovations, but also disrupting industry and how people work. At the same time, economic nationalism is rising around the world, largely resulting from parts of society not benefitting from years of increased globalization. Sustainability has also evolved. Business must now lead and not depend on government to be a beacon for sustainability. We must move on our own. It is no longer enough for companies to focus on their direct footprint, they must think about what types of jobs and opportunities they are creating for society. Tackling environmental challenges, affordable healthcare and energy access remain critical but have become engrained in our business operations...”


In my opinion, the "why" doesn't matter. As long as businesses are motivated to behave in a progressive manner when it comes to sustainability, it works for me.

What does your company do to promote renewable energy and a sustainable environment?