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Starting Your Sustainability Journey: SBTi, RE100, and the EPA Green Power Partnership

Shareholders and consumers are increasingly focused on corporate sustainability initiatives, but as a sustainability leader you’re presented with a dizzying number of tools, and those that are the most effective are often also the most complex. There is no one-size-fits-all approach; planning your sustainability journey will require choosing the correct tools for your organization’s unique situation, timelines, and goals. Thankfully, there’s an active community of sustainability professionals and a wealth of resources to  get you started.

What sustainability goals should you set?

“What are we trying to accomplish?” and “How can we measure it?” are natural first questions to ask when starting on your path to sustainability. There are endless ways to define and measure “sustainability” - which is right for your organization?

Science-Based Targets (SBTi) has answered that question for more than 7,500 different companies around the world, including household names like eBay, Colgate-Palmolive, and Clorox. SBTi uses the latest climate science to provide targets and metrics for corporations to use in their plans to reduce their carbon emissions. Since 2015, SBTi has led the charge in helping companies set meaningful and impactful sustainability goals.

Science-Based Targets are a great place to start if you’re still in the process of choosing goals for your company. The organization maintains a database of participating companies which includes near-term goals, long-term goals, net-zero commitments, and the status of each participating company’s targeted goals.

Electricity usage drives a large % of emissions - How can your company achieve 100% clean energy?

The phrase “100% clean” conjures images of office buildings outfitted with solar panels, or nearby wind turbines supplying an industrial park with all of the power it needs. The reality is more complicated – often on-site generation options such as these are limited by space, and corporations need to utilize a mix of other tools such as physical and virtual power purchase agreements (PPAs/VPPAs), renewable energy certificate (REC) purchases, green tariffs to fully cover their energy consumption with renewable generation sources. The mechanics of these tools can be complex, and the number of options can feel overwhelming.

If you’ve set a goal for your company to be 100% powered by renewables, then you’ll want to familiarize yourself with RE100, a global initiative which encourages corporations to set ambitious 100% renewable energy goals and provides a reporting framework to hold them accountable to that goal. RE100 also offers resources such as workshops, webinars, and a network of similarly ambitious sustainability leaders to help you navigate the complexities associated with sourcing your energy entirely from renewable generation.

Membership in RE100 also sends a message to the public that your firm takes sustainability seriously. This public commitment can improve your reputation, and shows investors that you’re committed to contributing to a more sustainable future. Collectively, RE100 membership sends a strong signal to power markets and policy makers that there is an increasingly large demand for renewable energy.

Zettawatts has highlighted a number of companies that have chosen to pursue 100% renewable energy. For examples of how companies achieved their RE100 status, see our spotlights on Lyft and Goldman Sachs.

Sustainability in the United States

If your company is based in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership is another way in which your company can publicly commit to using green power for part or all of your energy consumption. The goals of the Green Power Partnership (GPP) are to advance the US market for green power, reduce national emissions and pollution, and recognize leadership in green power use. While SBTi provides specific targets and RE100 provides a reporting framework, the GPP can provide concrete guidance for sustainability initiatives specifically within the United States.

Members of the Green Power Partnership join voluntarily, and include companies such as Cisco, Goldman Sachs, and Workday. Similarly to RE100, this public commitment can build credibility and show stakeholders that you’re committed to increasing usage of green power in the United States. The GPP also recognizes its members’ achievements by granting awards for a number of impact areas related to sustainability, such as Influence, Intention and Ambition, and Innovation.

Your First Step

Your company’s path to sustainability may differ from that of your peers, but these three organizations can start you on the road to sustainable success. Science-Based Targets can help you select effective science-based goals. The RE100 provides a network of companies with a 100% renewable energy goal, a framework to report on your progress in achieving that goal, and advocacy within the industry. The EPA’s Green Power Partnership is available for any US-based companies that have the potential to contribute to the agency’s goal of expanding the green energy sector.

As you become familiar with the tools available you will likely conclude that mitigating emissions requires adding new generation to the grid, rather than simply buying RECs from existing renewable generation. The Zettawatts AREC Market provides a way for you to achieve net-zero scope 2 emissions while adding new generation capacity to the grid, without the complexity or risks associated with traditional options such as VPPAs.


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