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US companies pledge $140 billion to fight climate change

Apple, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, and 10 other companies are meeting with the Obama administration Monday to launch the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which asks companies to set goals to fight climate change and reduce their environmental impact. 

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Apple CEO Tim Cook waves as he arrives on stage to deliver his keynote address at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 8, 2015. Apple is one of 13 companies are signing a White House pledge to set goals for itself to fight climate change.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters/File

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Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama administration officials are meeting with major companies on Monday to launch the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, the White House announced. The pledge asks the companies to set goals to make substantial progress toward reducing their impact on climate change.

Thirteen corporations are taking part in the pledge so far: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Wal-Mart. The companies pledge to invest a combined $140 billion to reduce their environmental impact and generate more than 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy.

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“No corner of the planet and no sector of the global economy will remain unaffected by climate change in the years ahead,” the White House said in a press release. The Obama administration hopes that with these companies promising to make strides toward reducing their impact on the environment, other large companies in the private sector will sign the pledge later this year. 

The companies participating in American Business Act on Climate Pledge set their own goals personalized to their specific industries. Apple, for example, pledged to generate an estimated 280 megawatts of clean power online by the end of 2016. Bank of America says it will increase its current environmental business initiative from $50 billion to $125 billion by 2025 through investing and other services. Wal-Mart aims to increase the production of renewable energy by 600 percent and double the number of on-site solar energy projects at their US stores, Sam’s Clubs, and distribution centers by 2020.

The arrangement could be a win-win situation for companies looking to clean up their brand image and consumers who want to patronize more eco-friendly businesses.  A 2014 Nielsen study found that 55 percent of global online consumers across 60 countries, and 42 percent of customers in North America, said they would pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. For large corporations, the initial investment in sustainability can be hefty, but  it can yield long-term returns throughout a business's operations by producing better products and lowering costs, The Christian Science Monitor has reported.

Monday's climate change initiative shares some similarities with The Giving Pledge, a campaign that encourages the world’s wealthiest people to promise most of their wealth to philanthropy. Both pledges involve powerful figures making a public commitment to positive change that benefit others. They also involve some of the same people. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet founded The Giving Pledge, which became publicly-known in 2010, and their respective companies, Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway Energy, are participating in the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

The Giving Pledge is a moral commitment and not a legal contract, according to the organization’s website. Although this fact has given way to some skepticism over if people actually donate their wealth, Gates and Buffet’s pledge has been well-received and continues to grow: the number of signature has grown from 40 to 137 in five years. Time will tell if the American Business Act on Climate Pledge will have the same domino effect.