Mars was one of the first companies to join RE100, a global leadership initiative on renewable energy led by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP. Here, Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Vice President of Sustainability at Mars, tells us about the challenges and opportunities resulting from sourcing 100% renewable electricity. This is part two of the interview - read part one here.
What challenges are you encountering from sourcing renewable power?
"As we continue to expand our renewable electricity programs globally, we’ve learned quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t.
One of the challenges Mars has faced is gaining a strong understanding of the variability surrounding how electricity is bought, sold and regulated from country to country. To negotiate the best long-term contracts possible, we’ve dedicated significant time and resources to better understand the renewable electricity space in each market we operate in and customized our approaches to the different regions.
Today, we’re working closely with local developers to research and determine what technologies perform the best in different priority regions around the world.
We also know that electricity is only one component where renewable sources can be applied. Companies’ demand for heating and cooling—a largely unrecognized energy demand—offers another important opportunity. The use of energy for heating water and both heating and cooling space, referred to collectively as thermal energy, accounts for roughly one-third of the total energy consumed in the U.S."
Have any new opportunities come from sourcing renewable electricity?
"We’re purchasing renewable electricity at prices equal to, or less than, traditional electricity sources in 10 countries around the world. This is an innovation story that has real bottom line benefits.
It’s also opened doors for us to work more collaboratively with customers working toward their own renewable energy goals. And it provides a dynamic area of engagement with policymakers."
Do you face any policy barriers?
"The Paris Climate Agreement set a global pathway toward climate action. In the past year, we’ve seen retractions of commitments in the U.S. This has presented companies like ours with obstacles and barriers that we’re aiming to address through multi-stakeholder initiatives such as We Are Still In (WASI).
WASI is a bipartisan coalition of more than 2,700 representatives in business, local government, higher education, as well as cultural, tribal and faith institutions declaring that we will not retreat from the global pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.
In the U.S., we’ve gone all in on renewable energy and believe others should join us. That’s why we filed a letter in support of the Clean Power Plan with the EPA earlier this year."
Why do you think it is important for companies to play a role in increasing demand for renewable electricity?
"Humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions have changed the composition of our atmosphere and the climate that surrounds us.
Around the world, people are feeling the effects – from increased average and extreme temperatures, to changes in rainfall patterns, to more severe and less predictable storms. We believe corporate climate strategies need to be rooted in the best-available science, which tells us that to avoid the worst consequences, we should limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial temperature.
Electricity producing assets – be they fossil based or renewable – have long lives, so projects being built today will have consequences for decades. Driving demand for renewables changes the investment decisions across the marketplace and increases the attractiveness of building new renewables rather than fossil assets.
We believe business has a big role to play in increasing the demand for renewable electricity. By establishing long-term power purchase agreements, we can help send the market signals that are necessary to keep the momentum moving in the right direction."
How are you going further and faster as a company to deliver climate leadership?
"We’re very focused on using our scope and scale to influence others. We engage in multilateral advocacy through collaborative groups like the Ceres Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) Network, WASI and We Mean Business.
We also conduct direct lobbying, provide public filings for the Clean Power Plan with the EPA, and attend and engage in global climate forums such as the UN Conference of the Parties (COP), the Global Climate Action Summit and more.
We’re also seeing consumers beginning to encourage companies to do their part to fight climate change. In 2017, our M&Ms brand launched the Fans of Wind campaign, a consumer-facing campaign that aims to educate consumers about the benefits of renewable wind energy and what they can do to support renewable energy in their own lives."
We also actively communicate our sustainability strategy internally to all our Associates around the world. This work is critical to establishing the vision and values that people are increasingly looking for as they consider where they work."
Read part one of the interview here.