How are multinational corporations tackling climate change?

World’s largest companies attitude to cutting pollution is mixed, but some are rising to the challenge

By Nilima Choudhury 

John Lewis is currently trialling a product labelling scheme to help people understand how energy efficient products can save households money.

Backed by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, consumers will be able to find out the lifetime electricity running costs on popular white goods like washing machines and tumble dryers.

Speaking at the launch of the scheme, energy secretary Ed Davey said he hoped this would help raise consumer awareness of energy running costs and “lead to more retailers rolling out clearer labelling.”

And as a new report by PwC and CDP explains, while overall emissions continue to rise, individual businesses are making impressive changes to their operations, aimed at saving energy and cutting costs for consumers.

Below we’ve listed 10 examples of energy efficiency and renewable investments by multinational companies. If you have any examples you would like to add leave a note in the comment form at the bottom of the page.


The technology giant now runs all its US data centres on 100% renewable energy, and has hit 75% at its global corporate facilities. Apple expects that number to grow as the capacity of clean energy increases.

Planned renewables installations include the USA’s largest end-user–owned onsite solar photovoltaic array and an onsite 10MW fuel cell that uses biogas. Once these come online Apple will be producing enough onsite renewable energy to power the equivalent of 17,600 homes for one year.

Questions remain over the environmental impact of Apple’s products, particularly heavy metal pollution associated with production. Some studies also say an iphone uses more energy than a fridge.

Burger King:

In many ways fast food outlets personify our throw-away culture, farming huge amounts of cows and chickens at huge cost to the environment.

Huge energy users, Burger King says it’s taking steps to cut its carbon footprint at store level. 80 restaurants in California have installed efficient grills, reducing gas consumption by 52% and saving $41,300 a year.

In 2010 it opened a franchise in Waghäusel, Germany that uses 720 solar photovoltaic modules to supply a third of its power.


Deutsche Post DHL has switched to electric vehicles for its delivery services in Bonn and the surrounding region this summer, making the city the first location in Germany with a carbon-free vehicle concept.

The pilot project sees about 141 electric vehicles on the road by 2016, resulting in decreased CO2 emissions of over 500 tons per year.

In March 2011, DHL rolled out a fleet of 30 electric and 50 hybrid delivery trucks to serve Manhattan, New York. By 2020 DHL aims to generate 30% less CO2 for every letter and parcel sent, every container shipped and every square metre of warehouse space used.

DHL is deploying more efficient vans, hybrid vehicles and investing in eco-tyres (Pic: Jennifer Zumbusch)



The social media giant’s latest data centre, in Luleå, Sweden is powered by locally generated hydro-electric energy.

Not only is it 100% renewable, but the supply is also so reliable that the social networking site has been able to reduce the number of backup generators required at the site by more than 70%. The company will also be completing its wind power data centre in Iowa, US, this summer and expects to begin serving user traffic in 2014.

Facebook’s Swedish data centre. (Pic: Facebook)



In 2011, Google invested US$100 million in Shepherd’s Flat wind farm located in Arlington, Oregon. It is expected to generate enough energy for 235,000 homes. The project has a state-of-the-art turbine technology used to increase efficiency and reliability and ultimately lower the cost of wind energy in the region. To date, Google has committed over US$1 billion to wind and solar projects.

Shepherds Flat Wind Farm is a 845 megawatt (MW) wind farm in the U.S. state of Oregon (Pic: Steve Wilson)


Furniture retailer IKEA announced the purchase of a wind farm in Ireland for an undisclosed sum to supply energy to its Dublin and Belfast stores. The wind farm is due for completion in 2014, located in Carrickeeny, near Galway on the west coast of Ireland, and will generate the equivalent electricity for approximately 5,500 houses a year.


A combination of new technology and employee awareness training has enabled a Nestlé factory in La Penilla, northern Spain to reduce its water use per tonne of product by almost two thirds in less than 12 months. Nestlé aims to further reduce water withdrawal per tonne of product by two fifths by 2015, compared to 2005. This modification has led to a reduction of more than 1,000,000 cubic metres of water per year, the equivalent of 400 Olympic swimming pools.


This month, Sainsbury’s launched the world’s first naturally refrigerated trailer to transport chilled and frozen goods. The CO2 refrigerated unit trial is part of the retailer’s review of its transport refrigeration gas as it aims to reduce its carbon footprint, which includes converting its stores to natural refrigeration by 2030.

It converted its refrigerated depots in 2011 and is on track to switch 250 stores to CO2 refrigerant by 2014 – over 160 stores have already moved to the natural refrigeration system. Its Haslucks Green Local store in Solihull is also trialling the very first small-scale CO2 refrigeration system, making it Britain’s greenest convenience store.


Unilever, the world’s third largest consumer goods company, announced the launch of a research project with the University of Liverpool last month to develop the next generation of renewable chemicals from biomass to use in the manufacture of its home and personal care ranges. The three-year project will involve developing renewable chemicals from the surplus sugars, fats, oils and carbohydrates produced via commodity by-products and forestry wastes.

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