American Enterprise: The Global Leader in Combating Climate Change

America’s private sector has solved many of the world’s crises, and the next one on the list is climate change. Most do not deny that climate change is real, but not everyone agrees on how to solve it. While politicians have been fighting over this issue for decades, America’s largest companies have been working towards solving the issue on their own. Many of America’s largest companies are the greenest companies in the world. These 9 companies have been huge players in the clean energy market and it is shown in their investments and their initiatives. They have all demonstrated what the private sector can do to combat climate change.

Tesla

Tesla was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning after determining that the American auto industry did not see electric vehicles as a worthy investment. Tesla would later go on to be one of the most successful companies in the country. Soon after its founding, Elon Musk joined the company as the primary investor of their first vehicle. Their primary goal was to make electric vehicles for mainstream markets. The company started with one vehicle, the Tesla Roadster, which was a rebadged Lotus. The companies originally had an agreement to work together until 2011, but this was extended to keep producing these unique electric sports cars. In 2009, the company received a $465 million loan. Following this milestone investment, Tesla began to grow fast: in 2010 they became a publicly traded company, and in 2012 the Tesla Model S became available for order. This led to the launch of Tesla’s new chapter: Sedans. This hugely popular sedan lead to new models such as the Model X and, new for this year, the Model 3 which starts at a mere $35,000 before incentives. Tesla has proven to the world that electric vehicles can be cool and furthermore that they do not have to break the bank.

GE

General Electric is a titan of the renewable energy industry. Not only does the company produce High Efficiency appliances and green technologies, but has also invested billions in the renewable energy industry. GE is big in the wind turbine industry as well as hydropower. They produce a number of different wind turbine models and their impact on the global energy grid has been more than significant. GE has installed enough clean energy technologies to accommodate 370 gigawatts of renewable energy across the globe-- a remarkable number and a huge step toward energy independence and sustainability. Not only has GE utilized popular renewable energy methods to help reduce carbon emissions, but they have also developed innovative new technologies that may take off. For example, Tidal Power uses the ocean tide to generate energy by placing small turbines under water that turn with the tide. There are a number of other unique technology tests GE is developing as well. GE is a commercial and energy giant that is using renewable, clean energy to keep their company moving forward.

General Motors

While companies like Toyota and Honda were developing efficient vehicles with quality parts, GM was focused on building flashy cars that had subpar fuel economy and build quality. However, GM has come a long way since the Hummer days and it started primarily after the Great Recession. In 2013, Mary Barra was elected as the new CEO of General Motors, replacing Dan Ackerson, and she has brought lots of positive changes to the company. GM has started to produce groundbreaking electric vehicles that are changing the market such as the Chevy Volt, Chevy Bolt EV, Chevy Spark EV, and a number of plug in hybrids across the Chevy, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick lineups. Not only have they invested in electric cars, but also hydrogen fuel cell technologies. They expect to offer consumers fuel cell vehicles by 2020. Additionally, the gasoline powered vehicles that they do have have become significantly more efficient. In 2007, Chevy’s lineup fuel economy average was 17.2 MPG. Today, that number is 23.3 MPG. Furthermore, GM has committed themselves to being greener as a company. Roughly 90% of GM’s manufacturing waste gets reused or recycled, they are changing to landfill-free manufacturing, and they have also invested millions in solar energy to power their facilities. GM is a shining example of what it means to be a green company.

Apple

Apple is one of America’s most successful companies in history. They have used their size and power as a driving force for good in the world through clean energy initiatives and responsible manufacturing and recycling practices. All of their data centers are powered by clean energy and 96% of their stores and other facilities use clean energy as well. They use wind and solar, but they also use hydropower, which is unique to most businesses. Not only do they use clean energy as a company, but they want their entire supply chain to use clean energy by 2020. Their goal is to bring 4 gigawatts of clean energy to the grid by 2020-- truly a monumental amount of energy that will cut our CO2 emissions as a planet. Their green initiatives as a company have greatly benefited our carbon footprint. Their average carbon emissions per product have gone from 137 kg in 2011 to 97 kg in 2016.

Google

Google is one of the most innovative companies in the world. From their roots as a search engine, they have grown into a technology empire offering everything from GPS to smart phones. This growth, however, has not impacted the company's effect on the natural world. The company and its founders have invested in green technologies, a major one of which is Tesla electric cars. Another is green energies as an industry, primarily wind energy. They have also accomplished something that many companies have not yet done: they are 100% powered by renewables as of this year, most of this energy being solar and wind energy. This is a huge investment in green energy that will further accelerate the competitiveness of these energies. This has made Google what it has aimed to be for years: carbon neutral. Google has had a mission to show America and the world that big companies can be green since the start and they have definitely proven this through their many green initiatives.

Microsoft

Microsoft, another Silicon Valley giant, has shown themselves to be very environmentally conscious and pro-clean energy. They have successfully completed three wind farm projects which generate over 522 megawatts of energy in various parts of the country, such as Wyoming and Illinois. In addition to this, they have invested in solar energy. On top of their Mountain View, CA campus lies over 2,000 solar panels that provide power to the facility. They also invested in a solar project with Virginia that provides 20 megawatts of power to the power grid. This heavy investment in renewables has contributed also to their 100% carbon neutral status. They have been a carbon neutral company since 2012. Another contributing factor to their carbon neutral status is their internal policy on emissions. Microsoft has implemented a carbon fee internally that costs each division of Microsoft money when carbon emissions are made. This creates a unified responsibility to lower emissions. The carbon fee has saved the atmosphere from 9.5 million metric tons of carbon emissions and created a reliance on clean energy. Through green initiatives, Microsoft is known as one of the most eco-friendly businesses in the world.

Kohl’s

When people think of green companies, retail chains are often overlooked. However, Kohl’s is one of the greenest companies in the country. They invest heavily in renewable energies, primarily solar power, which provides 50 megawatts of energy per year to their stores as well as the power grid. They have also made investments in wind energy. To make their energy go further and last longer, they have also implemented LEED and ENERGY STAR initiatives. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system that grades buildings on their efficiency and sustainability. Kohl’s currently has 492 LEED certified locations across the country. Kohl’s also holds the most ENERGY STAR locations among retailers, with 87% of their locations being ENERGY STAR certified. Not only is Kohl’s making smart energy choices, but they are also encouraging their customers to do the same. They have electric car charging stations at 90 Kohl’s locations, all of which are free of charge while their customers shop. Kohl’s is a true powerhouse of clean energy and sustainability in the retail world.

Intel

Intel is an American tech giant located in California as well as the global leader in manufacturing computer processors. Not only are they leading in the computer processor industry, but they also lead in renewable energy purchasing and investing. In 2015, the company was powered 100% by renewables and this mission for sustainability continues. This energy came from a wide array of renewable energy sources including wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and biomass energies. The company installed one of the largest micro wind turbine farms in the world on the roof of their facility in California. The company has made a statement on climate change and what they believe must happen to combat this crisis: “Intel Corporation believes that global climate change is a serious environmental, economic, and social challenge that warrants an equally serious response by governments and the private sector.” Intel is greatly committed to making the planet a better place through renewable energy initiatives and will continue to be a global leader for the cause.

Walmart

Though Walmart has received lots of negative publicity in the past 20 years, they are making huge changes to benefit the world we live in. As a company, they have partnered with 130 other companies in a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The company is doing this through utilizing renewable energies at their facilities. As of 2016, Walmart as a company was powered 25% by renewable energy. They have made a commitment to be 100% renewable energy by 2020. Not only do they aim to make their facilities sustainable, but also their cargo fleet and supply chain. They have a commitment to reduce fleet carbon emissions by 50% by 2020. This is a huge leap forward in sustainability as a company. They also plan to help their Chinese manufacturing plants to use renewable energies to reduce carbon emissions and have already done so at over 500 of these facilities. Walmart may have a way to go, but they are on track to be one of the most sustainable retailers in the world.

Nick Lindquist