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3 lessons from the Smart Energy Decisions 2018 Innovation Summit

April 4, 2018

By Leah Simmet

The 2018 Innovation Summit, organized by Smart Energy Decisions, provided ample evidence that sustainability remains a core part of the mission for leading corporations around the world.

Corporations are going all the way

Major corporate players like Toyota, Goldman Sachs, Equinix, and more are now pushing for entirely sustainable facilities and consumer products, which may challenge others to do the same. As Smart Energy Decisions notes on its blog, one of the prongs of Toyota’s six-point 2050 environmental challenge is to reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles by 90% and eliminate emissions from its manufacturing processes altogether. And that’s just the beginning.

At the conference, Toyota general manager Robin Haugen explained this move as a way for the company to be more in tune with nature. But there’s solid evidence that many companies are reaping major business benefits from pushing the sustainability envelope.

Reaping the business benefits of sustainability

Goldman Sachs manages over 10 million square feet of real estate around the world and is pushing its portfolio to be carbon neutral by 2020. The way that real estate is being used today is laying the groundwork for this challenge. An analysis of how employees use space revealed a current desire to work more collaboratively than in previous generations, which has helped the company reorganize its real estate footprint. By moving employees from five older, energy-intensive buildings to one new, efficient building the company reduced energy use by 40%.

Data center and colocation provider Equinix is seeing major operational cost savings on its journey toward 100% renewable energy. Although data centers are known for being among the most intensive energy users, the firm has embraced a range of alternative power solutions as part of its commitment to RE100, the corporate challenge to commit to 100% renewable power.

Having reached the halfway point on this journey at the end of 2017, Equinix has already achieved operational savings of $54 million since 2011, and is forecasting annual savings of $32 million once the 100% target is met.

The push and pull on corporate action

What makes these journeys more notable is that after years of federal support for renewable energy programs, corporations are finding less legislative support and are still targeting and achieving these savings. As Yvonne McIntyre, Vice President of Federal Legislative Affairs for Calpine Corporation, commented during the summit, state and local governments continue to push for use of renewable power and are likely to remain the chief driver of this transition. Now this push is coupled with a pull from corporate leaders who have committed to high levels of renewable power and are encouraging other companies to lead with them.

While federal climate change policy may still be evolving, many corporations have decided the conversation is over and energy efficiency and renewable energy are the next logical steps of development.

Leah Simmet

Leah is a sustainability professional with eight years of experience in business development, project management, and stakeholder engagement. With a legal education and business background Leah is a strong communicator with a passion for building relationships and working within cross-functional teams to drive change and timely achieve project deliverables.