RE100 targets 500 companies after hitting 100-member milestone

EXCLUSIVE: The Climate Group's RE100 initiative to get firms to source 100% renewable electricity is targeting 500 members by 2020, with each signatory encouraged to promote the initiative to its suppliers, after passing the 100-member milestone on Tuesday (11 July).

The RE100 is now supported by 100 companies with a total revenue of $2.5trn, after coatings manufacturer AkzoNobel, insurance firm AXA, fashion brand Burberry and beverage giants Carlsberg all joined the commitment to source 100% renewable energy.

AkzoNobel becomes the second biggest electricity user in the RE100 behind Walmart, and is aiming to become carbon neutral through the commitment by 2050. AXA has set a 2025 deadline for its commitment, while Burberry is aiming to procure 100% renewable energy by 2022. Carlsberg will switch to renewables in its breweries by 2022 before targeting a carbon-neutral status by 2030.

The latest raft of signatories means that the 100-member milestone was reached three years ahead of schedule. The Climate Group’s chief executive Helen Clarkson told edie that the members had “helped shift the narrative” about renewables and will now aim for 500 members by 2020.

“In 2013, the thought of having 100 companies committing to 100% renewable energy by 2020 seemed pie in the sky. But the ambition has paid off,” Clarkson said. “RE100 has really helped to champion the business case for renewables and by putting their money where their mouths are. Our members have helped to shift the narrative, and the market, through their investment.

“Given the pace of change we are seeing in the renewables market, we think we could see as many as 500 members by 2020. We are also working with our members to encourage their suppliers to commit to 100% renewable electricity in their supply chains, which will have a multiplier effect on electricity markets such as China and Indonesia.”

The RE100, delivered in partnership with CDP, is now creating around 146TWh in demand for renewable electricity annually – similar to the electricity consumption of Poland.

Clarkson is expecting the demand to increase as companies promote the benefits of renewable energy to their supply chains. Apple is helping its supply chain reach the 100% commitment, as well as enrolling suppliers in a variety of energy-efficiency programmes. Clarkson claimed that this could become a major trend of 2017 that “significantly scales-up global demand for renewables”.

In order to drive the pace of action further, Clarkson called on companies to “be bold, be strategic and share information”; alluding to the 47MW solar farm backed by Starbucks, the open communications provided by Google and the achievement of Mars in powering UK operations through Scottish windfarms as prime examples of how commitments can be reached.

Political pressures

Even in an era of political uncertainty derived from President Trump’s willingness to pull the US – where many of these companies operate – from the Paris Agreement, companies are still striving ahead with renewables commitments.

For Clarkson, business defiance in the face of political uncertainty could generate economic benefits by targeting energy efficiency gains. Specifically, she called for companies to join the EP100 and target doubling the economic output from every unit of energy consumed.

“What we are seeing globally is an increasing commitment from businesses and governments to delivering the Paris Agreement that we believe will continue regardless of the decisions taken by President Trump,” Clarkson said.

“In order to drive the pace of action, we want to see even more companies sign up to our corporate campaigns, which include RE100, and also EP100. By joining, companies can reap the benefits of lower energy costs and help shift markets to accelerate the pace of change.”

In a recent episode of edie’s sustainable business covered podcast, Paul Hawken, author of Project Drawdown, noted that collaborative approaches to climate action such as the RE100 were critical to delivering change.

Clarkson echoed these claims, noting that campaigns, such as the We’re Still In initiative established because of Trump’s decision, were driving interest because climate action was becoming prominent in boardrooms.

“I think there’s been a real change in the business world over the last few years as the business case for climate action has really been made and internalised into corporate planning,” Clarkson added.

“So, I think most businesses would like to see more political stability around the issue, but at the same time the business case for action continues and we’re likely to see companies stick to their plans despite changes in the external context.”

Matt Mace

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