Speakers representing a wide range of sectors, from academia to accounting, had similar views with regard to the importance of corporate social responsibility and renewable energy investments: These things matter now and will only become more important to shareholders and consumers in the future.

“In 5 to 10 years, it will be very difficult to sell products made from ‘black’ energy,” predicted Morten Albaek, Chief Marketing Officer for wind turbine manufacturer Vestas. Albaek was announcing the results of two new energy transparency studies being launched at the New York Bloomberg Tower on September 24th. The studies were released in Rio in August and London last week.

For the third year running, TNS Gallup conducted the Global Consumer Wind Study and Bloomberg New Energy Finance compiled the Corporate Renewable Energy Index on behalf of Vestas. The GCWS surveys customer perception of different energy sources and customer willingness to purchase products made with renewable energy. The CREX, in which 389 companies participated worldwide, asks companies to disclose the types of energy they use and their methods of energy procurement.

“Bloomberg was founded on the idea that data and transparency are the foundations of efficient markets,” Susan Kish told the audience to kick off the event and put Bloomberg’s involvement with the initiative in perspective.

Sustainability is going to become a requirement in the marketplace,” – Carr, NYU

Two clear takaways from the keynote speakers and panel discussion were that investing in sustainable business practices, and renewable energy in particular, is good for marketing and brand perception. Second, these investments offer clear financial benefits in the form of energy security and as a hedge against electricity price volatility.

“Sustainability is going to become a requirement in the marketplace and that’s a serious opportunity,” said Jeffrey Carr, Clinical Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at NYU’s Stern School of Business. “If you are not sustainable, you will not be on [consumers'] consideration list.”

The GCWS shows that 7 of 10 US consumers want renewable energy and 40% of US consumers are willing to pay a premium for products produced from renewable energy, said Albaek.
Similarly, 78% of US consumers want to see increased use of renewable energy over the next five years, Martin Hoffmann, Director at TNS told the crowd, citing GCWS data.

CREX data analysis of energy procurement methods reveals that renewable energy credits are most popular in the US, while the global trend is toward direct investment in onsite or localized distributed generation, said Curtis Ravenel, Head of Sustainability at Bloomberg.

Ravenel suggested this this regional divergence could be because marketing is the focus in the US, while energy security is needed in other markets, where onsite generation is used to protect against blackouts or electricity price spikes.

Regardless of the motivation in different regions, all the speakers seemed to agree that corporations are leading a trend toward increased renewable energy usage. “You need to have renewable energy on your side or you screwed up, said Gil Forer, Global Cleantech Leader for Ernst & Young.

This piece appears on Breaking Energy as part of the Energy Transparency series in partnership with Vestas.