Doing More Good: 5 Surprising Companies Taking Sustainability Seriously

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By Alice Williams

If you want to attract customers and investors, you might want to consider expanding your sustainability initiatives.

Today’s consumers and investors are basing their financial decisions on the societal and environmental impact of the companies they interact with — so it’s no surprise that many corporations have come to view corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives as a necessity rather than a luxury.

External pressures aside, Deloitte’s social impact study suggests that businesses with strategic and holistic sustainability programs reduce operating expenses and increase efficiency and profitability. In addition, some companies report their socially responsible business practices help them attract, engage, and retain top talent. CSR just makes good business sense.

The phrase “sustainable companies” may conjure images of small companies with lofty social goals that don’t care about profits, but the truth is that many global companies have dedicated considerable resources to developing their sustainability initiatives. The following five companies derive and produce shared value from their sustainability efforts.

1. Caesars Entertainment

Caesars — yes, the entertainment behemoth in Las Vegas — has had a sustainability plan in place since 2007. Named CodeGreen, the initiative focuses on decreasing the company’s environmental impact by reducing energy use, waste, and greenhouse gases.

The company has made great strides toward its 2020 environmental performance targets: It is a mere 2 percent away from its 30 percent emissions-reduction goal, has already passed its goal for reduced water consumption, and every new building or expansion since 2007 has been LEED certified. To raise awareness with customers, the company installed 50 electric vehicle charging stations and for the past seven years has participated in an annual Earth Hour by turning off all nonessential lights in its properties and signage. The CodeGreen at Home program encourages employees to practice sustainability in their personal lives as well.

Its work has encouraged others on the Strip to do the same. The Wynn, Las Vegas Sands and MGM have all publicly committed to sustainability efforts.

2. CenturyLink

If a sustainable Las Vegas resort doesn’t surprise you, then maybe a socially responsible telecommunications company will.

CenturyLink’s sustainability initiatives focus on three areas: philanthropy, volunteerism and the environment. The company’s environmental programs involve employees and local communities for broader impact and shared value — a company-wide Environmental Sustainability Council is responsible for prioritizing green initiatives for the company. Their primary goal is to reduce landfill waste and carbon emissions through the responsible use and disposal of resources.

In 2015 alone, the company diverted more than 8.5 million pounds worth of electronic equipment from landfills. Its recycling programs have offset the destruction of 30,000 trees, and its 30 solar sites generate thousands of watts of power. Its commitment to sustainability also led directly to the creation of the CenturyLink Technology Center of Excellence, featuring a green roof that grows vegetation throughout the year.

3. Heineken

SABMiller often claims the spotlight when it comes to sustainability in the beer industry, but Heineken is no lightweight. Its Brewing a Better World strategy focuses on six key areas, including reduced water consumption and increased sustainable sourcing. In the past two years, the brand has reached many of its 2015 environmental performance goals and has committed to even higher goals for 2020.

The company has reduced its water consumption in breweries by 26 percent since 2008 and reduced its total carbon footprint by 6 percent. On top of these initiatives, the company also sells beer byproducts to farmers as cattle feed: rather than paying for the disposal of the byproduct, the company makes a small profit from the sale and farmers save money on food for their livestock.

Heineken stands distinct from its competition because of how it publishes its annual results: the company knows few people will read a full-length PDF. Instead, it invests in interactive documents and spoken word poetry to share the results its sustainability efforts.

4. Heinz

Unsurprisingly, CSR programs at Heinz emphasize agriculture, the supply chain, nutrition, and food safety. What may come as a surprise, though, is that the company has been able to surpass several of its overall sustainability goals since 2005: it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 23.8 percent, water consumption by 23 percent, and solid waste sent to landfills by 51.2 percent.

Because the company operates worldwide, and different regions require tailored sustainability considerations, Heinz has created a Global Sustainability Council to share best practices across its facilities. Results in specific regions have been particularly staggering. Its facility in Dundalk, Ireland, for example, has reduced its solid waste by 92 percent, and the facility in San Joaquin, Venezuela — a water-stressed region — has reduced its water consumption by 56 percent.

Though the company has increased its use of renewable energy by 7.9 percent, it is still below its target of 15 percent. In an effort meet its goal, the company installed a biomass boiler in its factory in Brazil. The boiler uses sugarcane, eucalyptus, and straw for fuel and has helped the factory reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 60 percent.

5. Ikea

Perhaps the least surprising company on this list, Ikea nonetheless employs an astonishing number of sustainability initiatives with aspirational goals to have a positive impact on employees, customers, and the environment.

The People & Planet Positive initiative calls for Ikea to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020. The company has already installed 550,000 solar panels on 100 stores worldwide and 96 wind turbines in seven countries. In 2013 alone, the company produced the equivalent of one-third of its total energy consumption in renewable energy.

The initiative also requires the company to source 100 percent of its wood, paper and cardboard from sustainable sources, and increase sales of products that specifically encourage sustainability in its customers’ lives — resulting in the company reinventing many of its historical business models. The goals are lofty, but Ikea seems well on its way to meeting them with redesigns of existing products, deployments of new ones, and continued dedication to sustainability and corporate responsibility.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that companies across industries are embracing sustainability practices. Companies that align sustainability initiatives with their purpose and business objectives increase profitability, reduce employee turnover, and grow customer sales and loyalty. More importantly, they leave this world and its inhabitants better than they found them.

What companies do you know that embrace sustainability as a core business strategy? Does sustainability affect your purchasing decisions? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credit: Pexels

Alice Williams is a communications professional with an MA in Communication Studies. In her spare time, she freelances and blogs about health and wellness over at www.honestlyfitness.com.

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