Renewable energy: wind, solar, biomass, hydroThere’s a meeting of the minds happening among some of the biggest names in international business, and it’s all for a good cause. These are names you know well:

  • BMW
  • H&M
  • Microsoft
  • Starbucks
  • Ikea
  • Adobe
  • Coca-Cola
  • HP
  • Nestle
  • Nike

… and dozens more, specifically, 48 more at last count.

What’s bringing them all together? A project called RE100. Started in 2014 during Climate Week, RE100 is “a collaborative, global initiative of influential businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity, working to massively increase corporate demand for renewable energy,” according to the initiative founders, The Climate Group. RE100 is driving change to meet an enormous, seemingly Goliath goal. But by doing it one step at a time, one corporation at a time, suddenly it seems more attainable.

A commitment to 100 percent renewable sounds admirable, but what does that actually look like in terms we can easily relate to? To help give you that perspective, if all the companies that are in the RE100 today were to reach their goal of 100 percent renewable energy, it would be enough to power two of the largest cities on Earth, Hong Kong and Singapore, combined. Amazing as it may sound, renewable energy is just one goal of RE100. The initiative is also meant to raise awareness for cleaner, renewable energy, push for more competitive renewable energy rates, bring even more companies into the fold to commit to decarbonizing their power use, not just the global giants, and finally to engage the business community as a whole.

If 1,000 companies commit to renewable energy, [RE100] has calculated that we can eliminate at least 10 percent of global carbon emissions. And those companies can then influence the rest of the business world. We’d like to get to a tipping point,” says Emily Farnsworth, campaign director for RE100. “It’s just meant to push everything else forward. The pace of change for renewables, particularly in the last 5 to 10 years, has been absolutely incredible. Most models haven’t predicted it. … We’re really optimistic that the cost of technology to rapidly decarbonize the power sector, and energy efficiency in general, those two things together are going to be hugely important in terms of getting to that quick win in terms of carbon reduction.

What they’re hoping for is a large-scale domino effect in a given industry; when one company accepts the commitment and begins to implement change, others are curious to learn more and hopefully join the initiative and implement their own changes. When a large group takes action, new solutions will arise and significant change can happen. Meeting the goals of 100 percent suddenly seems more attainable.

At the end of 2015, Google announced, “the largest, and most diverse, purchase of renewable energy ever made by a non-utility company. Google has already committed to purchase more renewable energy than any other company. Now, through a series of new wind and solar projects around the world, we’re one step closer to our commitment to triple our purchases of renewable energy by 2025 and our goal of powering 100 percent of our operations with clean energy.” They have committed to making their data centres around the world as energy efficient as possible (see image, below, courtesy of Google), and their commitment to renewable energy extends beyond their own energy use to investing in other energy projects.

Google's renewable energy projects

Google’s renewable energy projects

China is still struggling a bit with understanding and capacity for renewable energy; but there are efforts to increase capacity of both, as the country begins to move away from their dependence on fossil fuel-based energy (check out this article on China’s eco cities). “Now, under China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (12th FYP: 2011-2015), the country aims to source 11.4 percent of its primary energy from renewable sources by 2015, and 15 percent by 2020. The renewable energy target is further reinforced by the 12th FYP’s goal to reduce energy intensity by 16 percent and carbon intensity by 17 percent,” according to RE100.

The objectives of RE100 at this point have been most widely adopted throughout the U.S. and Europe, but slowly, China and India, traditionally two countries that are big contributors to pollution, are coming on board. The Indian government has committed to sourcing 40 percent of the country’s electricity from non-fossil fuel based sources by 2030 (wind, solar, biomass, hydro, rooftop solar), according to RE100. Most recently corporate giants Infosys and Tata Motors Limited joined RE100.

Companies that are part of the initiative set their own target dates to meet the 100 percent renewable objective. If they already have committed to making the change before joining, this serves as a great opportunity to accelerate their existing goals. Together, the 50+ companies that are part of RE100 are about halfway to their goals, with the retail sector leading the way (led by giants like Ikea and Walmart, no doubt).

Big business can often be seen as the biggest offenders of energy waste. But thanks to initiatives like RE100, they’re able to use their power and reach to effect real change in today’s energy-dependent world. We can only hope that these efforts start a domino cascade of other companies, big and small, all around the globe, who are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and focusing instead on renewable, sustainable energy resources.

Do you think big companies are doing enough? Do you see movements like RE100 spreading to smaller businesses? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments.

image: collage with solar batteries as alternative source of energy via Shutterstock