WASHINGTON – Best Buy, General Mills and Target joined dozens of other major U.S. companies Monday in pledging to join a White House initiative to reduce carbon pollution and backing efforts to reach a global climate deal at upcoming talks in Paris.
The trio of Minnesota corporations join Minnetonka-based Cargill, which signed on to President Obama’s climate change plan in July.
Obama has touted corporate cooperation as a vital part of his environmental agenda. He now has enlisted 81 of America’s biggest firms in the effort, including Apple, General Motors, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. Collectively they employ 9 million people.
After he met with representatives of some pledge participants at the White House, Obama praised commitments that have sometimes been a tough choice, saying businesses have increasingly realized “that considerations of climate change, energy efficiency, renewable energies are not only not contradictory to their bottom lines, but for these companies, they’re discovering that they can enhance their bottom lines.”
Among other things, General Mills promised a 28 percent decrease in carbon emissions from 2010 to 2025 and 100 percent environmentally friendly sourcing of its top 10 ingredients by 2020.
“This is an acceleration of work we’ve been doing for awhile,” chief sustainability officer Jerry Lynch told the Star Tribune in an interview. “We just see this as a pressing issue that society needs to address.”
Only broad collaborations will redirect global warming, Lynch added. He pointed to the Field to Market alliance of U.S. agricultural growers, distributors, end users, government policymakers and environmental groups in which General Mills participates.
The biggest challenge to many U.S. companies attacking climate change could be their international supply chains. For instance, General Mills and Cargill rely on products like palm oil and cocoa produced in poor nations that may use damaging deforestation in producing raw materials.
Finding ways to trap carbon emissions and keep them out of the atmosphere is “one of the big untapped opportunities” in agriculture, Lynch said.
At Best Buy, opportunity lies in selling energy-efficient appliances to replace more wasteful ones. Growing sales of products certified to save power have become part of the business model, explained Laura Bishop, vice president of public affairs and sustainability.
Because of the breadth of its operations, Bishop said Best Buy is “in a unique position not only to get our own house in order, but also help consumers save energy.”
At the same time, the company used its pledge to increase an internal goal. Using such things as more efficient lighting and investments in renewable energy, Best Buy has already reached a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions that it was supposed to meet by 2020. In signing the White House pledge, Bishop said, Best Buy “reset that goal to 45 percent.”
Another of the nation’s largest retailers, Target plans to “dramatically increase” the number of solar panels atop its stores by 2020. It also will push to install food refrigeration systems that do not produce hydrofluorocarbons. Target aims to cut its water use by 10 percent from 2010 to 2020. And it plans to keep 70 percent of its retail waste out of landfills by reusing or recycling it.
“We’re proud to further our commitment to sustainability by signing on to the climate pledge,” Anthony Heredia, Target’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, said in a statement.
Besides individual action plans, the effort, officially called the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, requires participants to back international climate negotiations in Paris, scheduled to begin Nov. 30, and to adopt the following mantra:
“We recognize that delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment.”