Beyond the Meter - Season preview - Smart Energy Decisions

Beyond the Meter - Episode 6: How AT&T’s Corporate Sustainability Pledge Is Coming To Life

How AT&T’s Corporate Sustainability Pledge Is Coming To Life, with Shannon Carroll and Scott Macmurdo 


More and more companies are making corporate sustainability pledges - and it’s a good thing. Corporations are some of the largest consumers of energy in the world. When these companies take steps to reduce their carbon footprint by procuring their energy from renewable sources, they have a significant impact on the overall environmental issues our world is facing. 

This conversation inspires hope because it illustrates how a communication industry giant is leading the way in the sustainability movement. That company is AT&T. Guests on this episode are Shannon Carroll, Director of Global Environmental Sustainability at AT&T, and Scott Macmurdo, Business Development Director at Duke Energy Renewables. Their companies recently partnered on a renewable energy project that illustrates the kind of steps that can and should be taken by companies large and small. You will enjoy this conversation.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:01] The background of each guest in the sustainability arena
  • [8:09] The role corporate sustainability goals have in driving asset sourcing
  • [12:37] The involvement of the C-suite in sustainability pledges
  • [17:18] Who are the main stakeholders in the AT&T pledge toward sustainability?
  • [21:36] AT&T’s journey in renewable energy sourcing
  • [27:26] The anatomy of a renewable energy purchase
  • [34:40] The challenges that had to be overcome in the recent Duke / AT&T deal
  • [40:15] What’s the future of renewable energy hold?

The AT&T 10X Goal for environmental responsibility and sustainability

When it comes to corporate sustainability pledges, AT&T has set the bar pretty high. Not only are they committed to lowering their own operational carbon footprint as much as possible they are also committed to enabling their customers to reduce their carbon footprint as well. That’s where the 10X Goal for Environmentally Responsibility and Sustainability comes in.

The AT&T pledge is this:

We’ve set a goal to enable carbon savings 10 times the footprint of our operations by 2025. We’re calling this our 10x Carbon Reduction Goal, or more simply, our “10x” Goal. To meet the goal, we’re making our network more efficient and we’re working with our customers to deploy technology that can help reduce GHG emissions, save water, and more. AT&T is also teaming up with companies to measure the GHG emissions reduction of specific products.

The AT&T energy team worked with experienced third party consultants in the renewable energy space to come up with the strategy and then put it into place officially. Listen to this discussion to learn how they made it happen.

The fastest and most significant way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint

In recent years we’ve seen record rates of sustainability goals by corporations. Not coincidentally, we’ve also begun to see record levels of corporate renewable energy procurement. Simply put, companies are taking the initiative to sidestep traditional forms of carbon-based energy to use renewable energy instead. Undoubtedly, this is the best way to dramatically draw-down on a company's CO2 footprint in the least amount of time.

As explained by the guests on this episode, there are a handful of things companies could do to be true to their commitment to corporate sustainability. Some of the solutions are:

  • Moving toward energy efficiency
  • The build-out of renewable energy sources of their own
  • Changing gas-powered fleet vehicles to electric

While good and needed steps, in most cases, these are not the way to create a significant change in a short amount of time. Then how are they doing it? Through large-scale renewable energy procurements. Think of it as the largest “ROE” - return on effort. Limited resources demand the biggest bang for the buck - which is accomplished through switching energy sourcing to large scale solar or wind projects.

Goal alignment and good communication drive corporate sustainability efforts

As the AT&T team began to make efforts to reduce the company’s CO2 footprint, many options were considered and tried. But by far, large scale Power Purchase Agreements became the fastest and best way to make a difference. The team researched what would best meet the needs of the company and best serve the customer and solicited the help of third parties from the renewable energy industry who could advise about best-practices.

The key to aligning stakeholders was to stay focused on their common sustainability goals and to talk to all the teams involved: energy -supply chain - finance - C-suite - and on-the-ground managers. Their goal was to ensure that the projects being considered made sense across the board, while at the same time understanding and quantifying the risk openly. In the AT&T approach, the upside had to outweigh the risks.

Trends that impact the future of corporate renewable energy sourcing

Will more companies follow AT&T’s lead and develop renewable energy pledges of their own? It’s likely, for several reasons.

FIRST - The cost of renewable energy is going down overall. This translates into better value for buyers, who in this case, would be corporations.

SECOND - Customers are gaining a better understanding of the risks involved and are learning to mitigate those risks effectively by shifting it to developers.

THIRD - Many new renewable energy companies are coming into the marketplace. The competition that is developing makes overcoming supply-chain hurdles and cost factors, less of an issue.

You’ll be inspired by the commitment to corporate sustainability the AT&T goals represent and after listening, you’ll have a good idea of the challenges and benefits of developing a renewable energy plan of your own. Please listen!

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Shannon and Scott

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