Sustainability as an opportunity
Patagonia’s efforts to reduce resource consumption have been well documented, from cofounding the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to the seemingly counterintuitive ‘don’t buy this jacket’ marketing campaign. The company has invested heavily in protecting the planet, and is viewed as an example of sustainable success. Of course, there’s more to it than just goodwill… Patagonia has survived nearly 50 years in the turbulent retail sector. Sustainable business makes sense, and not only because customers connect with purposeful, environmentally conscious companies. Sustainability is necessary. If your business isn’t sustainable, it simply won’t survive.
As sustainability rapidly climbs the boardroom agenda, here are 10 companies committed to greener growth.
1) Bank of America
Bank of America has a proven track record of green financing – supporting sustainability in the world of finance. In 2013, the bank coauthored the Green Bond Principles, a set of voluntary guidelines to bring more integrity to bonds. The following year, Bank of America was instrumental in founding the Catalytic Finance Initiative (CFI). The CFI brings together non profits and financial institutions to spur investment in sustainable development. Bank of America itself pledged an initial $1bn. To date, the CFI has mobilised over $9.3bn in investments. Last year, the bank committed a further $125bn to low carbon, sustainable business activities. This, in turn, has benefitted the bank. According to Global Environmental Executive Alex Liftman, Bank of America is now doing eight times more business than it was 10 years ago.
The retail industry has received considerable backlash over environmental damage. It’s not hard to see why, given the huge manufacturing and transportation costs of delivering products to consumers.
Etsy is the first major ecommerce business to offset 100 per cent of its carbon emissions from shipping. Any carbon emissions produced as a result of the shipping process are cancelled out by a variety of emissions reduction projects, funded via their partner 3Degrees. Projects include sponsoring wind and solar farms. By 2020, Etsy plans to power all of its operations with renewable energy.
3) Dassault Systèmes
Dassault Systèmes develops 3D design, 3D digital mock ups, and product lifecycle management (PLM) software. Over 220,000 customers use Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE technology to build solutions that advance sustainability across sectors. Ultimately, the more a company understands its product lifecycles, the more it can pursue sustainable goals such as reducing waste.
“In the virtual world, we can simulate and evaluate impacts before producing the product itself. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables innovators to play a major role in inventing sustainability models,” says Bernard Charlès, Vice Chairman and CEO.
In 2018, Dassault was ranked first in Corporate Knights’ list of the Top 100 Most Sustainable Companies in the World. Dassault has been featured on the list for seven consecutive years.
Pharma and sustainability don’t seem particularly well matched, but AstraZeneca is proving otherwise in its efforts to prevent illness and drive sustainability. In Dunga Beach, Kenya, the company is preventing respiratory conditions by replacing traditional firewood with biogas stoves that turn waste material into fuel. This reduces pollution, makes use of waste, preserves trees and frees women and children from the laborious task of gathering firewood. As such, they are able to spend more time in education and in work. So far, 50 biogas stoves have been installed and two community scale systems are under construction, which has created local jobs.
In Asia, a similar project aims to widen education about respiratory disease. The benefits for society and the environment are clear. For AstraZeneca, the research can help to create much more effective drugs and treatments, and positions them as a pioneer in sustainable pharma.
5) Anuvia Plant Nutrients
Feeding the world’s growing population remains one of humanity’s biggest challenges. Fortunately, crop yield and quality can be vastly improved by AgriTech. That said, simply pouring pesticides on crops or using an autonomous tractor certainly doesn’t constitute sustainable farming.
Anuvia Plant Nutrients claims that its patented biotechnology can do in minutes what nature does in years. The company’s Organic MaTRX delivery system combines organic particles that provide docking stations for desired nutrients. This increases nutrient availability and reduces waste. What’s more, the only byproducts of the Organic MaTRX are clean air and water. In 2018, Anuvia took home a SEAL Environmental Initiative Award.
6) innocent drinks
innocent drinks aims to ‘leave things better than we find them’. To achieve this, innocent uses recycled and plant based plastics for its bottles. This means that each bottle it produces is fully recyclable, depending on the recycling capacity of local councils. The company, which makes its smoothies and juices from plants and vegetables, also invests in innovative agriculture projects. In Huelva, Spain, strawberry farming is the primary source of income but uses vast amounts of water. innocent has carried out collaborative research work to improve water efficiency when farming strawberries, benefitting the local environment – including the Parque Nacional de Doñana, an important nature reserve. In addition, innocent only uses Rainforest Alliance Certified bananas. Another purposeful project is the innocent big knit, in aid of Age UK.
Eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year. Consumer electronics company Dell advocates a circular economy mindset, and has created the first ocean bound plastics supply chain. In other words, Dell takes plastics that would otherwise end up in the ocean and integrates them into their products. The initial pilot, in which ocean bound plastics are used in new packaging for the XPS 13 2-In-1 laptop, will keep 16,000lbs of plastic out of the sea. By 2025, Dell plans to increase this to 160,000lbs.
In partnership with the Lonely Whale Foundation, Dell has also used disruptive technology to spread awareness about the plastics problem. In a three minute VR experience, users dive deep into the ocean to find as much plastic as fish. Dell and the Lonely Whale Foundation have jointly created Next Wave, an open source initiative to encourage businesses to use ocean bound plastics in their products.
Over 14 million coffee cups are used each day in the UK alone… But only one per cent are recycled. In a direct response to this problem, CupClub was founded in 2015 to give people the convenience of takeaway without throwaway. The company makes packaging for hot and cold drinks that, once used, can be left at a drop point and cleaned for reuse. Each cup is designed for a minimum of 132 uses and logs data via RFID and IoT software. This information then helps CupClub’s clients to understand user habits and trends while identifying hotspots for beverage consumption. CupClub currently focuses on offices, educational facilities and retail, with a view to working with festivals and other events.
9) Electrolux Group
In 2016, Swedish home appliance maker Electrolux established the Electrolux Food Foundation to spread knowledge about sustainable cooking and healthy eating. Through the foundation, employees can receive funding and resources for initiatives that tackle the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, the Foundation focuses on goal number two – Zero Hunger – and goal number 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production. Working to make a real difference in this way has drawn together Electrolux’s employees, as well as their clients and customers. The company remains the second largest home appliance manufacturer in the world.
10) Marks and Spencer
UK retail giant Marks and Spencer (M&S) has placed sustainability at the centre of its business for years. In 2017, the department store launched Plan A 2025, which hopes to transform the company into a zero waste business. M&S has set some impressive targets. In the next three years, it aims for all packaging to be widely recyclable and, by 2030, to have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent. Interestingly, M&S claims to have saved over £750m in costs through reducing its energy, packaging and transportation use, further proving that purpose drives profit.
The above companies have each realised that sustainability is an opportunity. A commitment to sustainable growth offers the chance to fund innovative technologies, improve internal processes, and make a tangible difference beyond immediate stakeholders. Not only does sustainable business make sense for bottom lines… It builds a positive company image that drives customer and employee engagement alike.
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