100% renewable power is a credible and feasible corporate goal, agree RE100 companies at Clean Energy Summit

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27 April 2016

LONDON: 100% renewable power is a credible and feasible global commitment for world leading businesses, and RE100 is the initiative to achieve it through – said RE100 companies speaking at the Clean Energy Summit in London this week.

Joanna Yarrow, Head of Sustainability at IKEA UK & IE said it was actually “a lot easier to go 100% renewable than 80 or 90% – otherwise there would be endless internal meetings about who was going renewable and who wasn’t”.

In agreement, Joe Franses, Director, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at Coca-Cola Enterprises, said only a 100% goal could galvanize interest within the business and engage those concerned with security of supply – “a lower target wouldn’t have brought the right people to the table.”

The companies were speaking as part of a panel moderated by Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, on the first day of the event. IKEA, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Marks & Spencer, and Nestlé shared their experiences of setting and working towards 100% renewable power goals as part of the RE100 campaign, which is led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP.

A representative from Heineken also spoke of using renewables to help it reduce its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020 (compared to a 2008 baseline).

Key drivers for action

Joe Franses of Coca-Cola Enterprises, said the company would never have committed to using 100% renewable power five or six years ago, but recognizing that it could now buy renewable power at a competitive price, joined RE100 in December.

Joanna Yarrow explained that IKEA, a founding partner of RE100, recognized the opportunity to save money and insulate against price rises – energy costs being the second biggest cost after staff at the company. “We want to be a business that’s thriving and surviving in decades to come”, she said.

Andrew Griffiths, Head of Sustainability at Nestlé UK & Ireland, highlighted the threat of climate change impacts to the food and drink sector as a key driver to join RE100, alongside the chance to work in collaboration with other leading companies. He said increasing price certainty and lowering risk “gets the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) excited”.

Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business (Plan A) at Marks & Spencer, said the major retailer was sourcing renewable electricity at no extra cost – in fact it was seeing a return through the feed-in tariff – and for that reason it was easy to convince the CFO that 100% renewable power was realistic. The rest of the panel agreed that renewable power wasn’t costing them any extra.

Marks & Spencer is almost entirely powered by renewable energy already – with 100% renewables in the UK. IKEA is already about 67% of the way there globally, and by the end of this year, Coca-Cola Enterprises expects to be on around 40% worldwide. Nestlé now sources 100% renewable electricity from the grid in the UK and Ireland, and will be announcing new investments in the coming weeks.

Andrew Griffiths and Mike Barry both described the transition to 100% renewables as a three part process: reducing energy consumption by investing in efficiency, sourcing renewables for the electricity that is used, and working with others to increase demand for renewables around the world.

Going the extra mile

When Mark Kenber asked the panel if consumers expected business to act on energy, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’. Mike Barry said that customers put pressure on Marks & Spencer to act, and that in turn, the company puts pressure on the system. The company has invested more than US$550,000 in community energy projects in the last year.

“Our customers do care actually”, said Joanna Yarrow, referring to research last year showing that 80% of them want to live more sustainably, “and there’s more and more expectation that organizations will do their bit.” Earlier this week, IKEA announced it would start selling solar panels in its UK stores. “We want to be the leaders in helping customers live more sustainably”, she added.

Joanna Yarrow also acknowledged a public “toe-curling” in reaction to green claims in recent years, saying that a degree of corporate greenwashing had provoked cynicism. She said it highlighted the importance of leading companies “taking consumers on a journey, of being transparent, and co-creating solutions.”

Mike Barry said the low carbon revolution was “disrupting” the way companies do business. Years ago “no news was good news” from companies, he said, then after that, it was all about building sustainability into the brand. Now, businesses are expected to go further and deliver “actual products and services that enhance consumers’ lives in a low carbon way” – otherwise they’ll get “washed away”.

IKEA, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Marks & Spencer all said they were also working with their suppliers, to encourage them to switch to renewable power too. “It’s about what you do in your own operations, the leadership you show in your supply chain, and the leadership you show with your customers”, said Mike Barry.

Why RE100

Joe Franses said the energy landscape was a particularly complex one, with Coca-Cola Enterprises having found Scope 2 guidance and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol somewhat hard to navigate, and that it was difficult to keep up with changes in national energy policy in each of the countries in which the business operates. He said that guidance and advice, alongside “power in numbers”, was a key reason to join RE100.

Andrew Griffiths said the RE100 campaign “brings visibility and understanding”, and Mike Barry said that by working alongside other companies in RE100, Marks & Spencer could help change the bigger picture and achieve far more than it could do alone. He urged companies thinking about joining the campaign to know what they wanted to get out of it and to be an active participant. “It’s creating value for you”, he said.

Joanna Yarrow highlighted opportunities to learn through the campaign. She said businesses should engage with each other so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. “58 companies makes for a pretty good endorsement”, she said. “This is not some wacko agenda!”

By Marie Reynolds

Joanna Yarrow, Head of Sustainability in the UK and Ireland for IKEA

Joanna Yarrow, Head of Sustainability in the UK and Ireland for IKEA
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