Having achieved 100% renewable electricity in all operations in 2012, Pearson has joined RE100 to strengthen the business voice for renewables. We hear from Peter Hughes, Director, Corporate Responsibility on how the company got there and why it made business sense to take action.

What motivated Pearson to become '100% renewable'?

Pearson is the world's largest education company, with 40,000 employees in more than 70 countries helping people to make measurable progress in their lives through learning.

As a company committed to helping people of all ages learn, we have a duty to play our part in making sure everyone has a healthy and sustainable planet in which to progress. It is not just the right thing to do; it is the ‘must’ thing to do.

We decided that business as usual was insufficient as a response and that we needed to adopt a series of ambitious goals to change our own practices.

How did you decide on your 100% renewable electricity goal?

Essentially, we wanted a big environmental goal that we could use to focus the organisation on reducing our environmental impact. We acted both to be consistent with our values to be brave, imaginative, decent and accountable as well as recognising the growing concern over climate change among investors, authors, employees, students and customers alike.

Climate neutrality was a stretching and forward looking goal to adopt, so we made a commitment in 2007 to become climate neutral by the end of 2009. This commitment has been renewed and refreshed every year since.

Once we had adopted our overarching goal – we looked at what other strategies we could adopt that would have a meaningful impact. In that context, we started on our journey to 100% renewable electricity in 2008 and hit our target in 2012.

Why do you think it is important for companies to play a role in accelerating demand for renewable electricity?

Access to affordable and reliable electricity supply is vital to economic growth. At the same time, how we generate electricity needs to be part of the solution to tackling climate change. Without a doubt, large companies have an extremely powerful lever to apply through their procurement choices. Companies can signal the importance to utility providers and to markets of investing in renewable sources of electricity.

Why do you think RE100 is a good initiative to join?

Pearson is only one business voice. Through collaborating with others, we can be even more effective in signalling the business case for increasing renewable electricity capacity and availability in markets around the world.

What are your renewable electricity achievements?

Our journey to purchase 100% renewable electricity started in 2008 and was completed in 2012. Our most significant focus area for us is our largest market, the United States. Pearson has consistently ranked in the top 50 largest purchasers of electricity from renewable sources in the United States and has twice received a Green Power Leadership Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

We now have invested in renewable energy generation at five sites and have 2.6 Megawatts of wind and solar assets installed.

What opportunities and challenges have you encountered?

Availability of renewable electricity in all countries where we operate has been our greatest challenge. Looking ahead, we will seek to work with other companies that have signed up to RE100 to build demand for commercial renewable electricity tariffs.

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

Our four areas of focus under our climate neutral commitment are carbon reduction, the purchase of electricity from renewable sources; renewable energy generation at our sites and the purchase of carbon offsets.

Our target on reduction was to reduce our operational emissions by 20% by the end of 2015, based on a 2009 base year. As at the end of 2014,we have achieved 22%, so have adopted a stretch target of a 25% reduction.

We continue to respond to the climate neutral challenge by developing and investing in environmental products and services. For example, Pearson is market leader in the Higher Education environmental science textbook market with a 40% market share. We also offer Mastering Environmental Science – a collection of online homework, tutorial, and assessment products, reaching tens of thousands of students who will go on to become the next generation fighting climate change.


Last updated: December 2015