American Businesses -- Small to Huge -- Act on Climate

Big businesses know climate change is threatening their companies -- and all of us.

On Monday, 13 major companies, from General Motors to Microsoft to Coca-Cola, announced they were doing something about it.

Together the companies said they plan to make a collective $140 billion in low-carbon investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency and other improvements. The goal: To improve the way they use energy in their factories and offices and reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide -- the biggest driver of climate change.

By doing so, some of the companies will cut their carbon emissions by as much as 50 percent. They'll reduce their water intensity by as much as 15 percent. They'll collectively add 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy. Some will soon get 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources, while others will pursue zero net deforestation in their supply chains.

Executives of the 13 companies who took the American Business Act on Climate Pledge at the White House sent a strong signal that U.S. companies are right beside the Obama Administration in taking concrete steps to address climate change. They also made it clear that they want international negotiators preparing for the U.N. climate talks in Paris in December to keep the ball moving on a global scale.

Of course they aren't the only businesspeople wanting lawmakers to act on climate. Last December, more than 360 members of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) -- including executives from major companies like Google, Apple, Oracle and Facebook -- signed a letter in support of the Obama Administration's soon-to-be-finalized Clean Power Plan, perhaps the most important piece of climate policy in recent history. You can read the letter here.

And of course it's not only big businesses taking steps and making investments to address climate change, either. Companies of all sizes and industries are already reducing their own carbon emissions and transitioning to clean energy, both for the benefits to their bottom lines and to the environment.

In Virginia, it's companies like little Catoctin Distillery, which recently installed a solar array on top of its building that offsets about 85 percent of the whiskey maker's electricity usage, while simultaneously reducing its carbon emissions.

In Missouri, companies like One3LED help businesses ranging from gas stations to parking garages cut the carbon and the electricity costs by installing high-efficiency lighting. One3LED also reduced its own carbon emissions by adding automated environmental controls; limiting the use of paper and taking other steps in its offices and warehouses.

And in California, entrepreneur Brendan Millstein founded Carbon Lighthouse with a single, ambitious mission: To stop climate change. Today, using complex networks of sensors and other equipment, Carbon Lighthouse helps real estate companies make their buildings carbon-neutral. Check out the video:

When it comes to addressing climate change, leadership comes in many forms.

It comes from our elected officials, from the president to small-town mayors to the international climate negotiators gearing up for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris.

It comes from businesses, from Coca-Cola to Catoctin Distillery; from Wal-Mart to One3LED.

It comes from individuals who lead their neighbors in adopting solar and increasing the energy-efficiency of their homes.

In the end, we all benefit.