Autodesk has achieved its 2020 target to be 100% powered by renewable electricity. Here, Lynelle Cameron, president and CEO of the Autodesk Foundation and senior director of sustainability, tells us how the company has done it.

Congratulations on your early achievement. What inspired Autodesk to become ‘100% renewable’?

“Of all the social and environmental challenges we face, none is more pressing than climate change, and renewables are part of the solution. The next few years are critical in our collective ability and will to respond to the threat of climate change. We must adapt to the changes already in-progress, and work to prevent and even reverse climate change.

"The transition not only benefits the environment, but our business as well. By powering our business with 100% renewable electricity we will not only reduce our carbon footprint, but give ourselves a competitive advantage as we protect ourselves against future rises in energy costs."

How did you decide on your 100% goal?

“When you take a long-term view, the decision to switch to 100% renewable energy is an easy one. The complexity comes in deciding how best to achieve the goal. We have always been committed to leading by example and shifting to 100% renewable electricity is one step along that path. We also want to demonstrate that companies of our size can be 100% renewable – not just big companies like Google.”

How have you reached your goal? 

“Our goal this year was to achieve 100% renewable energy. We know however that that’s not enough. As we look to the future our goal is to move beyond unbundled RECs to procure renewable energy that is additional, local to our operations, and that spurs innovation. This is the kind of procurement that needs to become the norm among the many corporations making 100% renewable energy commitments.”

What challenges and opportunities are you encountering?

“100% renewable commitments are not created equal. We have achieved our 100% goal but our challenge going forward is to partner with environmental and business leaders to raise the bar, to focus on co-benefits and to do what it will take to bring renewable energy to scale in a way that benefits both people and the planet.”

Why do you think it is important for companies to help increase demand for renewable energy?

“Businesses and government both have essential roles to play in mitigating and adapting to climate change. We need bold leadership and commitments from both sectors. As with voluntary eco-labels, businesses like Autodesk can lead by example to help prime the market, with regulations to follow. The shift to a low-carbon future is inevitable and we believe that being a first mover is not only the right thing to do but will also will give companies a competitive advantage.” 

What else are you doing to help the shift to a low carbon economy?

“After COP21 in Paris, the conversation shifted from whether we can collectively address climate to how we as a global community will translate policy into action. So when we open new facilities, we always explore sustainable options such as installing renewable energy sources and using sustainable construction materials.

“In addition to sourcing 100% renewable electricity, Autodesk has recently set a company-wide internal carbon price so that we can communicate the cost of emissions in financial terms across our business. We expect this price will help align business decisions and investments with a low-carbon economy and prepare us for future carbon taxes.

“And let’s not forget the very nature of our business. As a leader in 3D design and engineering software, we have an incredible opportunity to help our customers design for a low-carbon future. Our company sits at the nexus of the design community – Autodesk products are used to create everything from the cars we drive to the world’s tallest skyscraper. We know that the greenest package is one that is not produced or shipped at all. We have the tremendous potential to influence the designers who have the power to address climate change.

“We continue to lead by example by developing solutions to help our customers design and create low carbon buildings, infrastructures and products. In 2009, we committed to our science-based methodology C-FACT as a way to help cities and businesses set economic and [science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"In 2010 we provided digital prototyping software that enabled naval architecture and offshore engineering firm Marine Innovation & Technology to develop a WindFloat, a floating platform capable of supporting large offshore wind turbines producing enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.

"And in summer 2015 we sponsored POC 21, the first hands-on innovation camp for designers, makers, engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs to prototype open source solutions to sustainability challenges. The focus was on the power of individual makers’ creativity to effect grass-roots solutions in their communities.

“We are also dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of our whole supply chain. The best approach will be one that other companies and our customers can replicate and bring to scale.”

Last updated: June 2016