business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times has a story this morning about how major US retailers are among the companies that are making major investments in environmental and renewable energy projects that they believe will have a significant impact on their bottom lines.

The Times writes that "at a time when the federal government is increasingly stepping away from addressing issues like sustainability and climate change, corporate America is stepping up. Retail giants from Target to Walmart to Amazon; and tech titans from Apple to Google to Facebook, are taking action to respond because it’s good for business and good for corporate image. For many consumers, addressing core issues like climate change and sustainability go hand-in-hand with attracting their business."

The story notes that "going green has never looked so good — or cost so little. Solar power is almost 90 percent cheaper than it was 10 years ago and wind power is about 70 percent cheaper," which explains why "companies in the United States purchased three times as much power generated from solar and wind energy in 2018 than they did the year before."

One example cited in the story: "Target is so serious about being viewed as a friend of the planet that by November, the company said, it will have erected rooftop solar panels on 500 of its stores in the United States. That’s more than one-quarter of its total 1,855 stores, and Target expects to reach that goal one year earlier than projected.

"By the end of 2019, Target will have achieved 25 percent of its mission to attain 100 percent renewable electricity in its stores — and this just months after announcing the pledge. In its relentless bid to out-green archrival Walmart, Target also has ranked No. 1 in on-site solar capacity for three years in a row in the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Means Business report, a survey of corporate solar users."

Walmart "is right on Target’s tail," the story says, having "set a long-term goal of using 100 percent renewable energy … By 2025, Walmart aims to power 50 percent of its operations with renewable energy through on-site installations and purchases from external power providers … Walmart has renewable energy projects all over the world from South Africa to China to India. In India, rooftop solar power is in 90 percent of its buildings. And in China, Walmart recently placed a rooftop solar project at a Sam’s Club store in Jiangxi Province. Worldwide, Walmart has 136 projects under development that will generate another two billion kilowatts of renewable energy."
KC's View:
It is important to recognize that there are at least dual motivations at work for these companies. It is good for their bottom lines, which obviously is important, but iut also recognizes that for companies to retain credibility with younger generations of shoppers, it is important to be positioned correctly in terms of things like sustainability (and other social/cultural/business issues).

Kudos to businesses - especially retailers, the most customer-facing businesses of all - for realizing and acting on this. I'm not sure that it says anything positive about a federal government that, as the Times says, seems to be disengaging from such issues … it probably suggests that at least some companies want to be more relevant to its consumers than lawmakers are to their citizens and voters.