Do RECs and Carbon Offsets Make Good Business Sense?

Unlike putting solar panels on your roof to power your operations and lower your electricity bills, supporting renewable energy by purchasing renewable energy certificates (a.k.a. RECs) or carbon offsets is going to cost some money. So how can a business justify that cost? Here’s what we uncovered:   

Stay Ahead of Your Competitors  

As more and more businesses are stepping up their environmental game, it becomes important to stay on pace or ahead of your competition.  

Running your business partially or completely on renewable energy is a great way to differentiate you from your competitors and build your brand.  

When you need a ride, do you call Lyft or Uber? What’s the difference? Well, what if you knew that one of them was purchasing carbon offsets to make your ride 100% carbon neutral, at no extra cost to you? That’s exactly what Lyft started doing this year. They’ve given potential customers a reason to choose their product over their competitor’s. Pretty smart.   

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Build Loyalty  

Renewable energy is a great way to appeal to potential clients and build a loyal customer base as you send a clear message that you care about the future.  

According to a 2017 report by the Shelton Group, 70 percent of millennials say that a company’s environmental practices impact their purchasing decisions. And when they trust a company’s environmental and business practices, 95 percent of millennials recommend that company to others.   

Shelton Group’s 2018 report “Brands & Stands,” underscores that trend, indicating that consumers of all ages support brands that have a greater social purpose. “64% of those who said it’s ‘extremely important’ for a company to take a stand on a social issue said they were ‘very likely’ to purchase a product based on that commitment,” the report notes.  

When you look at numbers like that, the question becomes not, “Can our business afford renewable energy?” but rather, “Can our business afford not to?”   

The other day I bought a box of crackers. The package read: “Carton made with wind energy.” The cracker company probably doesn’t own its own wind turbine. Rather they likely purchased an equivalent amount of wind energy from the grid as it takes to produce their cartons.  

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They may not have purchased offsets for 100 percent of their electricity, yet they are still showing their commitment and reaping the marketing benefits for the portion they are able to purchase.   

As a customer, I felt good making this purchase, and I’m more likely to buy them again because I want to support their commitment to clean energy. (Plus, the crackers were tasty.)  

We All Have a Role to Play in Protecting our Planet and our Future  

Aside from the marketing benefits, purchasing renewable energy – even just a little – sends a strong signal to our community, our state and local government, and our electric utility that we value renewable energy as a smarter, cleaner way to fuel our businesses and a way to live in alignment with our values.  

At the Charlottesville Climate Collaborative, we believe everyone has a key role to play when it comes to implementing solutions that reduce our climate impacts. It will take all of us doing our part to reduce our collective greenhouse gas emissions.   

Check out our two-part blog series (Part I and Part II) on how to support renewable energy as a home or a business when a solar power install is just not feasible.

(Article co-authored by Lena Lewis and Teri Kent)