Clean energy is no longer just the bastion of crunchy granola types and companies hoping to improve their public image.
Increasing the use of renewable energy has become a targeted goal of almost half of Fortune 500 companies, and with good reason. According to a new report, more than half of Fortune 100 companies collectively saved $1.1 billion in energy costs by rolling out renewable energy programs.
The report, "Power Forward 2.0," was put together by Ceres, David Gardiner & Associates, Calvert Investments and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
According to the report, 43% of Fortune 500 companies, or 215 in all, have set targets in one of three categories: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency and using renewable energy. When narrowed to just the Fortune 100, 60% of the companies have set the same clean energy goals.
The 53 Fortune 100 companies reporting on climate and energy targets to the Carbon Disclosure Project have, according to a conservative estimate, saved $1.1 billion annually through emission reduction and renewable energy initiatives, the report found.
Here's a list of companies that reported significant savings in 2012 from carbon reduction programs and renewable energy projects.
UPS (saved $200 million)
Cisco Systems (saved $151 million)
PepsiCo (saved $120 million)
United Continental (saved $104 million)
General Motors (saved $73 million)
Intel (saved $72 million)
Wal-Mart (saved $71 million)
AT&T (saved $41 million)
Dell (saved $36 million)
In 2012 alone, the 53 Fortune 100 companies reduced carbon emissions by 58.3 million metric tons of CO2 -- the equivalent of retiring about 15 coal plants. On average, each company saved $19 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions.
Leading the charge to reach targets in the three categories of green energy initiatives are companies such as AT&T, Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, General Electric, General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Sprint and Wal-Mart.
For its part, AT&T had a 2012 goal of adding 5 megawatts (MW) of power from alternative energy sources from a 2011 baseline of 3.9MW. The carrier surpassed the target, adding 7MW generated with alternative energy. AT&T has installed 11MW total as of 2013; it now gets 13% of its energy from renewable sources.
IBM has saved about $477 million from its efforts to conserve energy. Both Wal-Mart and Dell could save about $1 billion each if they engaged in similar efforts, according to the report.
"The trends are clear: Leading companies are capturing business value by executing effective clean energy strategies, and with proven results, more are sure to join the pursuit," the report states.
However, despite the overwhelming success some U.S. businesses have had in meeting targets and saving money, smaller companies and some entire sectors of the economy are missing such opportunities, according to the report.
For example, only 30% of the companies among the Fortune 250 to Fortune 500 have any kind of renewable energy or efficiency goals. And less than one-third of companies in the energy or financial services market have adopted energy saving targets.
"Collectively, the failure of these companies to follow what has become best practice also means that the corporate response to climate change is insufficient," the report states.