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Published on April 13th, 2017 | by Tina Casey

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See How This Yuuuuuuge US Company Hit Climate Change Target — 33 Years Early

April 13th, 2017 by  


The US company Salesforce has a message for everybody else: what are you waiting for? In 2015 Salesforce set itself a climate change goal of achieving net zero for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and today the company announced that it has met that mark in 2017. That’s 33 years ahead of schedule, for those of you keeping score at home.

So…how’d they do that?

Net Zero And Economic Growth, Too

Salesforce bills itself as “the world’s fastest growing Top 5 software company and #1 CRM leader,” so let’s pause here for a detour over to newly minted Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Although his orders from the Trump Administration apparently precluded joining every other G7 nation in a widely anticipated declaration of support for action on climate change, Perry used the occasion of the latest G7 meeting to articulate a general outline that supports the Salesforce vision of economic growth and climate action working together:

The United States is committed to ensuring universal access to affordable and reliable energy in order to promote economic growth and energy security.

I discussed with my fellow Ministers that the Trump Administration believes that economic growth and the environment can successfully go hand-in-hand.

An example of this success is my experience as a Governor when we made good policy decisions that grew our economy, and added 4 million new residents to my state. At the same time, we reduced our emissions and improved our environment.

Perry did pitch the Trump Administration’s line on fossil fuels, but that Governor reference is a tell. Perry’s tenure as Governor of Texas included the state’s emergence as a wind energy powerhouse and a home for wind tech innovation, with solar energy coming in close behind.

Texas also staked out a claim for algae biofuel development and it has banked on renewable energy to answer the dilemma of its notorious “electricity island.”

As a border state with renewable energy fan Mexico, Texas also stands to gain from cross-border cooperation on sustainable grid improvements.

Perry has continued to promote renewable energy as Energy Secretary, deploying the Department of Energy’s blog and news feeds as well as his own Twitter accounts. He gets the stinkeye on other issues of great significance, but his renewable energy cred is firm.

Climate Change Goal Reached, Give Or Take A Few Years

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at what Salesforce did to tamp down its carbon footprint so quickly.

To a large extent, Salesforce demonstrates that companies don’t have to wait around for new high-tech developments. The company took advantage of different technologies that are already proven and at hand.

Access to renewable energy is a big part of the equation. In a press release issued today, Salesforce noted that the company signed two 12-year agreements with two wind farms, one of which is in Texas (where else!).

The other wind farm, somewhat ironically, is in the coal-country state of West Virginia, where the wind industry has carved out a small toehold.

Another key element is the use of carbon offsets. Salesforce shopped diligently for “high-quality carbon offset projects with robust environmental certifications and added social benefits.”

The company cites two examples, a clean cookstove project in Honduras called Proyecto Mirador, and a solar hot water heater initiative in India, both of which rely on proven technology.

Jumping On The Cloud

Saleforce has also taken good advantage of emerging emerging IT platforms, namely, cloud-based computing.

When Salesforce issued its 2050 climate change pledge in 2015, it emphasized the importance of transitioning the cloud to renewable energy:

…We see the development of renewables as an important part of our sustainability strategy, and we believe the cloud should be powered by clean sources of energy. That’s why we joined RE100 in September 2015, committing to eventually power 100% of our global operations with renewable energy. RE100 is a group of influential businesses working to massively increase corporate demand for renewable energy…

That’s not all just hearts and flowers, by the way. Salesforce sees the combination of social responsibility and net zero as an effective strategy for a company to attract — and keep — customers.

Here’s a snippet from today’s press release:

Since its founding, Salesforce set out to deliver value to customers in a new way — through the cloud. Salesforce’s multi-tenant architecture is 50 times more energy- and carbon-efficient than traditional on-premise software, enabling Salesforce and its customers to avoid significant emissions over time — two million metric tons of CO2 in 2016.

The Salesforce sustainability model also includes political advocacy on issues that are important to its “employees, communities and stakeholders.”

Back in 2015 the company signed on to the American Business Act on Climate Change, an awkwardly titled but important initiative aimed at providing private sector support for a strong US position in advance of the COP 2015 climate talks in Paris.

Based the G7 episode, so far it doesn’t look like the Trump Administration is interested in following through.

On the bright side, earlier this week a slew of political observers noted President Trump flipped his position on at least four campaign promises in just one day, so perhaps action on climate change has a good shot.

Image (screenshot): via Salesforce Stakeholder Impact Report.





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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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