Climate Week 2016: Apple and Bank of America lead corporate charge towards net-zero economy

Climate Week New York City (NYC) 2016 has kicked off in style with America's largest tech firm and second-largest bank headlining a flurry of ambitious corporate commitments to a renewable energy-based future.

For the third year in a row, the launch of Climate Week NYC was marked by the Empire State Building turning green on the evening of 19 September

For the third year in a row, the launch of Climate Week NYC was marked by the Empire State Building turning green on the evening of 19 September

Apple and Bank of America - representing a combined revenue of more than $316bn (£242bn) - both pledged their allegiance to The Climate Group’s RE100 scheme to source 100% renewable electricity, capping off a hugely successful opening ceremony of the Climate Week NYC event last night (19 September).

The pledges from the FTSE-500 corporates is expected to be the first in a wave of climate commitments from major brands, provincial leaders and government representatives throughout the week-long series of events taking place across the US capital.

Clean investment

Bank of America, which operates more than 4,500 retail branches across the US, announced on stage at Climate Week NYC that it will seek to power its entire operations with 100% renewable electricity by 2020 under its voluntary RE100 commitment. 

The bank then went a step further, also announcing plans to go carbon-neutral; reduce location-based emissions by 50%, energy use by 40% and water use by 45% in its operations across the globe - all by the same 2020 deadline.

“These new commitments build on our existing environmental strategy for both our operations as well as our business activities," said the Bank's global environmental, social and governance executive Andrew Plepler. "This includes our $125bn environmental business initiative, which is providing much-needed capital to catalyse greater investments in clean energy and other low-carbon projects.

"Overall, we have provided more than $53bn dollars to sustainable business activities since 2007. “We’re joining RE100 to help keep these critical issues at the forefront of the business agenda, recognising the role of the private sector in addressing challenges associated with climate change. Together we can accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and low-carbon economy.”

Sustainability leader

Tech giant Apple, meanwhile, used the opening ceremony of Climate Week NYC to announced its own commitment to join the RE100 campaign, as well as confirming the completion of a new 50MW solar project in Arizona nd new renewable energy commitments on behalf of its manufacturing partners.

"Apple is committed to running on 100% renewable energy, and we’re happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort,” said Apple’s vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson, during her opening ceremony keynote speech.

“We’re excited to share the industry-leading work we've been doing to drive renewable energy into the manufacturing supply chain, and look forward to partnering with RE100 to advocate for clean-energy policies around the world.”

As with some of the other 72 RE100 member companies, Apple is yet to set a specific date for its 100% renewable energy commitment. The firm is not far from the target already, though: 93% of Apple's worldwide electricity use came from renewable sources in 2015, with its operations in 23 countries currently running on 100% renewables.

Fresh from releasing its iPhone 7 - which itself delivers some advances in sustainability - Apple also committed to help its manufacturing partners lower their carbon footprint, pledging to work with them to install more than 4GW of new clean energy worldwide by 2020.

More green pledges

Climate Week NYC’s opening day also saw a new RE100 commitment from America's largest union-owned bank, Amalgamated Bank, as part of a series of fresh policy steps regarding its own investment assets, operations, and lending portfolios that together demonstrate the serious economic risk in climate change.

"We need to be honest - we have a growing environmental crisis unfolding and Amalgamated Bank will no longer sit on the sideline,” said Amalgamated Bank's chief executive Keith Mestrich as his business pledged to be powered by 100% renewables as early as next year. 

Further reaffirmation to climate action then came from Philips Lighting, which used the opening day of Climate Week NYC to launch its ‘Brighter Lives, Better World’ sustainability program that includes goals for 80% sustainable revenues and 100% carbon-neutral operations by 2020, as well as a shift to 100% renewable electricity.

Meanwhile, Bambeco, the sustainable home goods e-commerce company, announced a commitment to become carbon-neutral by 2020, which would make it the first net-neutral home goods company.

"I’ve seen first-hand the positive and compounding impact that carbon neutrality can have not only on the planet, but on a company’s bottom line, and hope to inspire other businesses through our continued success," said Bambeco's chief executive Susan Aplin.

Climate Week NYC takes place at a critical moment for global climate action, with the Paris Agreement on the cusp of ratification. Earlier this week, UN officials reportedly indicated that at least 20 countries will join the Paris Agreement at an event on Wednesday, adding to the 27 nations that have already done so and raising hopes that the deal will enter into force by the end of 2016.

Luke Nicholls


apple | bank | energy commitment | low carbon | renewables | sustainable business


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