Why Businesses Need to Collaborate for a Sustainable Future

Many people assume that tech companies are always competing. But as we celebrate Earth Day this year, we’re feeling grateful for our tech peers. When it comes to the environment, working together allows us to make bigger strides toward our shared sustainability goals — and collaboration is the only way forward.

For example, working with Enel Green Energy in Nebraska, in March of 2018 we partnered with Facebook to sign the tech industry’s first aggregated purchase of wind energy — a project demonstrating that collaboration between two companies with similar renewable energy goals can work together to achieve their objectives. For Facebook, Enel and Adobe, this is an important next-step in helping open up the U.S. renewable energy market, stabilizing the cost of energy, and helping to eliminate pollution in the region. Further, it provides revenue for local farmers, ranchers and landowners in the process. This project came to fruition because we had worked with Facebook on sustainability initiatives over the years.

Behind the scenes, we’ve joined forces with committed companies and environmental NGOs (such as WRI, WWF, RMI and BSR) to share ideas, consolidate our renewable energy buying power, and support legislation for sustainability. BSR recently posted an article demonstrating how their Future of Internet Power group came together to help each other set specific renewable energy goals and share best practices to reach them.

Working toward 100 percent renewable energy

Over the past few years it has been great to see the majority of our fellow tech companies set renewable energy goals, make tremendous progress to reach them, and subsequently create more opportunities for everyone else. Following through on these commitments, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, GM, Walmart and Microsoft, have all made numerous, grid-scale – meaning very large – renewable energy purchases. Their combined actions have changed the power landscape by replacing traditional fossil-fuel powered grids with true renewable energy. As a direct result, we’ve seen a significant drop in the cost of renewable energy, allowing more companies – with smaller energy demands, like Adobe – to enter the renewable energy buying market.

But there’s still more to do. We all need to work collectively to decarbonize the grids we work and live on. This is the critical component of Adobe’s goal to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. That may sound like a long time away, but that’s because we’re planning to achieve our goal by pushing local, regional and federal policy to regionalize our grids and open them up to renewable energy for everyone – not just our business.

As an example, in early 2016 Adobe signed an amicus brief supporting the Clean Power Plan with companies including Apple, Amazon, IKEA, Mars, Microsoft, and Google, in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund. And we, along with business leaders across the country, affirmed that We Are Still In when it comes to the Paris Climate Agreement. Everyone has more power and influence when we work together.

Again, the goal should not be to simply offset our carbon footprint, but to fundamentally change it: decrease consumption through energy efficiency, switch from fossil-fuels to electricity when possible, and work to get renewable electricity powering the grids in our communities. We’ve already started this process in Bangalore.

Bangalore and what’s next for Adobe

In March of 2017, Adobe signed a 2.5-meagawatt grid-scale solar power purchase agreement for our Bangalore site. Here’s what that means — instead of purchasing unbundled renewable energy credits to offset the carbon-based, “dirty” electricity we use, we’re buying solar energy that goes directly into the local power grid in Bangalore.

As a result, our energy spending is helping clean up the grid for the community — the schools, libraries, businesses, and homes that are part of our Bangalore employees’ daily lives will all draw from a pool of electricity that includes more clean energy because of our purchase. Karnataka (Bangalore’s state) will burn less coal, so the air and water will be cleaner for everyone who lives there.

In many ways, completing the Bangalore project was easier than trying to do something similar in the U.S. (a function of regulated grids in states like California). But, we need to work for this on every grid. We believe that the ability to purchase renewable energy directly in the places where we work and live stabilizes costs, improves business operations, and creates value for our shareholders.

Among a number of activities, we’re currently advocating for “Green Tariff” legislation in Oregon that will make it possible to procure renewable energy for our data center there. And we continue to work with NGOs, state and local governments, developers and utilities to push for progress so that we can open up more opportunities for the direct purchase of renewable energy across the U.S. market.

Science-Based Targets and sustainability

As part of our 100 percent renewable energy goal, we’ve joined the Science Based Targets initiative, with more than 100 of our peers. These targets ask companies to consider their own percentage of the GDP, based on revenue, and to translate that percentage into our fair share of carbon dioxide emissions. Science Based Targets are keeping us all accountable for reducing our contribution to CO2 in absolute terms by 2025.

To bring all of this together, we have a multi-pronged approach:

Working together for lasting change

Operating sustainably has been one of Adobe’s core values since the beginning, but we can’t go it alone. It’s only when we pool our ideas, our influence, and our buying power with other companies, inside the tech industry and out, that we can meet the goals we all share — reducing our energy use and cleaning up our power grids.

The next step is inviting everyone to do more than just offsetting emissions. Consider this a call to action, through policy advocacy and procurement, about decarbonizing our grids. This really is the way forward.