Corporations are criticized for putting the pursuit of profit above all else (and most do). But being a slave to the bottom line can also boost clean energy technologies that are as business-smart as they are planet-friendly.
Let’s get one thing straight: no matter what you’ve heard, corporations are not job creators. Big companies do not exist to make sure everyone makes a living wage or that our economy is progressing in the right direction. By law, the sole duty of a corporation is to make as much money as possible for its shareholders–a duty that is best achieved when overhead costs like labor are tightly controlled.
Although there are a thousand examples of how this mentality has harmed our culture and planet, I’ll save them for another time. Multinational corporations are here, most likely to stay, so why not focus on ways they can help?
Even though it’s still motivated by a desire to reduce costs and up profit, many of today’s most well-known brands are embracing clean energy technologies in a big way. While the powers that be remain remain handcuffed to fossil fuels, these bastions of capitalism are voluntarily making the switch to solar, wind, and more. Why? Because it’s cheaper, more efficient, and better for their bottom line.
1. Starbucks – Wind Energy
In 2008, the Frappucino giant set a goal to purchase renewable energy credits certificates (RECs) equivalent to 50 percent of the electricity used in its U.S. and Canada company-owned stores by 2010. While RECs aren’t the same as solar panels on the roof, their cost funds renewable energy projects pumping clean energy into the national grid. Encouraged by their early success, Starbucks set a new goal in 2011: to purchase the RECs equivalent to 100 percent of the energy electricity used in our company-owned stores globally by 2015. As of 2012, they were already more than 50 percent of the way there, making Starbucks one of the nation’s largest purchasers of American wind energy.
2. IKEA – Solar Energy
In 2012, this Swedish furniture powerhouse release its “People & Planet Positive” long-term sustainability strategy. Among other things, the plan revealed Ikea’s ambitious goal of relying on only the sun and wind to produce all the power it uses at its stores and buildings by 2020. Unlike others who’ve made big claims only to backpedal later, Ikea set about achieving its goal almost immediately. In the US, Ikea has increased the number of solar installations to 34 stores and distribution centers, with five more underway. Many of these arrays, like the ones in Maryland and Florida, are the largest in their states.
3. Apple – Fuel Cell/Biogas
As the unofficial brand of technology-savvy hipsters the world over, Apple knows cool. But hipsters are also concerned about the environment, and don’t want their iProducts with a side of eco-guilt. According to a 2012 EPA survey of companies that use the most renewable energy, Apple came in at a safe number 10, producing an impressive 537.4GWh, or 85 percent of its requirements through clean technologies. The company’s newest data center in Maiden, North Carolina, features the nation’s largest end user–owned, onsite solar photovoltaic array. The maiden campus also boasts an onsite 10-MW fuel cell installation that uses directed biogas to provide more than 83 million kWh of 24/7 baseload renewable energy annually — making it the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country.
Image: Thin film solar panels being installed on a Wal-Mart in Mountain View, Calif.