Leading companies have doubled down on environmental sustainability this year. Environmental sustainability goes right to the core of United States companies in Ireland, across all sectors.
"As the world's largest, most broadly-based healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson understands that human health and environmental health are inextricably linked. Healthy people need a healthy planet," says Leisha Daly, Johnson & Johnson senior director for government affairs, and American Chamber of Commerce Ireland board member.
The company began setting public climate goals 20 years ago but its climate commitments are its boldest and most ambitious yet. “We aim to achieve, by 2030, carbon neutrality in our operations. Additionally, we are committing to work with our suppliers to reduce our upstream carbon footprint by 20 per cent by 2030 also. This will deliver nearly 2.5 times the carbon footprint reduction when compared with our current operations,” she explains.
To help achieve this goal, the company is moving its target for 100 per cent renewable electricity from 2050 to 2025.
Over the past decade, J&J Ireland sites have invested more than €60 million in more than 80 carbon footprint-reduction projects, including four wind turbines on its manufacturing properties here. These complement the nearly 50 solar arrays it has built around the globe.
Recently, the Janssen Sciences Ireland campus in Cork achieved LEED silver certification, for leadership in energy and environmental design. The LEED green building at the site includes charging stations for up to 22 electric cars, covered bicycle parking, open space for protecting natural vegetation, adjustable sunshades on each building level and a wind turbine which provides renewable electricity for about 50 per cent of the site’s annual electricity usage.
The environment benefits but employee engagement does too. The group employs 5,000 people across 10 sites here. “Building renewable energy sources on our sites such as solar arrays and wind turbines has emerged as a tremendous source of pride for our employees,” says Daly.
“Although some may see the circumstances of the past 10 months as a setback to climate action, we at J&J view the conditions created by the pandemic as inspiration to propel our climate action further and faster. This past year has shown us our capacity for bravery and shared action in response to a global threat to the health of humanity.”
Amazon Web Services (AWS), an enabler of cloud computing, has made a series of announcements this year in relation to its environmental sustainability initiatives. This included, in September, news of its third renewable wind farm project in Ireland, an important power of its commitment to be 100 per cent powered by renewable energy by 2025.
Its latest project, a 115MW wind farm in Ardderroo, Co Galway, will begin producing renewable power in 2022. As such it will add to AWS's existing projects, in Esk, Co Cork, which will come online in 2020, and at Meenbog, Co Donegal, which will follow in early 2022.
In total, all three projects are projected to add 229MW of new clean energy to the Irish grid each year. Put another way, that is the equivalent of taking out 366,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum from the Irish grid, while producing enough renewable energy to power 185,000 Irish homes a year.
The new projects will help accelerate Ireland’s ability to meet its 2020 and 2030 renewable energy targets.
AWS is the first organisation in Ireland to sign unsubsidised corporate power purchase agreements (CPPAs), says Mike Beary, its director, human resources EMEA, and newly appointed American Chamber of Commerce Ireland board member. What that means is that the three renewable projects combined will save Ireland Inc money to the tune of around €229 million in public service obligation (PSO) subsidies not sought over the lifetime of the projects.
By the very fact that it offers cloud computing storage facilities, data centres like those of AWS have helped the world cope better with the pandemic, enabling entire populations to work remotely, children to study online, and even healthcare to be delivered remotely.
All that internet-based cloud computing is stored in real infrastructure, the data centres that power it, Beary says. Their drive to generate energy efficiencies and reduce their carbon footprint will benefit all.
This summer Amazon announced a $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund, to invest in companies that are building products, services and technologies to decarbonise the economy and protect the planet.
As a company it committed to becoming net carbon neutral by 2040, “Ten years before the Paris Climate accord target,” Beary says.
Ireland is the first place outside of the US where AWS has started to build data centre infrastructure. Covid-19 has not slowed down its sustainability programme at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. “We’re accelerating our investment in renewable energy,” he says.