Biggest firms set emissions and renewable energy targets

Cost cutting and volatile fossil fuel prices cited as key factors in increasing commitments to clean energy, study shows

More than half of the world’s largest companies are actively investing in renewable energy and reducing emissions to control costs amid volatile fossil fuel prices, according to a study by lobby group, Calvert Investments and the World Wildlife Fund.

Some 56 percent of the companies in the Fortune 100 and Global 100 have goals in renewable energy use or emissions reduction or both, according to the study, called Power forward: why the world’s largest companies are investing in renewable energy. The conclusions were based on interviews with executives and analysis of public disclosures.

‘Why are corporations using renewable energy? Again and again, they told us it comes down to economics,’ the report’s authors write. ‘Large companies need ways to limit their exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices, which affect the price of electricity. They understand that coal-fired power is increasingly risky and the current glut of cheap natural gas simply can’t last.’

The report says that more than two dozen of the companies in the study, including AT&T, Dow Chemical, General Motors, Google, HSBC, Procter & Gamble, Volkswagen, Wal-Mart and others, have also set voluntary renewable energy commitments and made them public.

Fortune 100 companies in the materials sector have led the way in setting targets for both renewable energy use and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, with 100 percent of them actively pursuing targets, according to the study. In the Global 100, half of the companies in the materials sector have set the same targets.

In second place on the Fortune 100 is the telecommunications sector, with 67 percent of the companies setting targets in both areas. On the Global 100, only 13 percent of telecommunications companies have set targets in both areas, while 63 percent have targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The sector lagging behind in commitments to renewable energy and emissions reductions is the energy sector. On the Fortune 100, 82 percent of the energy companies have no targets in either area, while 55 percent of the energy companies on the Global 100 have no targets.

‘Despite a difficult economic environment, corporations have not been deterred from investing in renewable energy,’ the report concludes. ‘All Fortune 100 companies with targets announced their renewable energy commitments after the global economic crisis, with the exceptions of Google and Wal-Mart, which set their targets in 2007.’

The report says that 61 percent of Fortune 100 and 57 percent of Global 100 companies have set targets for the near term, or 2015. Some 30 percent of the Fortune 100 and 38 percent of the Global 100 have set targets for the medium term, or 2020, and 9 percent of the Fortune 100 and 5 percent of the Global 100 have set targets for 2050 and later.

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