As consumers, businesses, and employees place more value on doing business with companies that care about the planet, many corporations, municipalities, and SMBs (small- and mid-sized businesses) ramp up their sustainability focus.
How they construct (or renovate) their buildings, handle waste, source products, and serve their communities are all part of the sustainability movement.
LEED certification is just one way that companies and communities can move toward more sustainable business practices. But many enterprises in all different industries have taken other steps – small and huge – to incorporate planet-friendly thinking in their day-to-day operations.
This list is just a small sample of the thousands of companies changing the world for the better.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rate at which the food and beverage industry is adopting healthier practices. From small actions like locally-sourcing food to major retrofits with ENERGY STAR® appliances and LED lighting, restaurants are looking for ways to save energy and money while reducing their carbon footprints.
Chipotle has long been known as a champion of sustainability. From locally-sourced ingredients to the “gloves to bags” program, they have put their money where their mouths (and those of their diners) are. They are continually innovating, and their new Chipotlanes drive-thrus contain many future-friendly elements.
Among the small and growing chains and restaurant brands that the media has heralded for their sustainability efforts are MixtGreens and Founding Farmers. Larger chains include McDonald’s and Taco Bell, proving that even the fast-food giants are concerned about the environment. Starbucks is also constructing buildings that comply with LEED standards.
Find out how Burger King saved $60,000 a year by switching to LED lighting technology.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition was formed to educate fashion brands about ways to adopt environmental practices. Their HIGG Index is a standardized system of assessing how manufacturers create goods (clothing and shoes).
But sustainability is more than what’s on the shelves and racks. Retail buildings are also moving toward environmentally-sound design, construction, and energy usage. From parking structures to check-out stations, retailers are looking for more sustainable ways to light, heat, cool, and merchandise their properties.
Patagonia and REI are well known for their commitment to the environment. But some brands that don’t appeal to outdoor activities have also adopted a green commitment. For example, women’s clothing company Eileen Fisher is a Certified B Corp and clearly outlines its environmental responsibility and plan in its annual report.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showcases other sustainable retailers in its Green Power Partnership Top 30. It includes household names like Ulta Beauty, Best Buy, and Kohl’s.
Warehouses comprise significant square footage and present an obvious opportunity for sustainability in retail. Companies are continually looking for ways to reduce energy usage in storage and shipping.
Looking beyond consumer-facing brands, we find many companies worldwide that have committed to sustainable practices.
For example, tech leaders Cisco and Hewlett-Packard made the Corporate Knight’s list for 2020. This easy-to-navigate map illustrates the locations of these companies, proving that sustainability is truly a global initiative.
Manufacturing giant Unilever has made a clear commitment to sustainability and dedicates an entire section of its website to its mission and actions.
Eco-friendly operations are not limited to international enterprises, however. For example, as Etsy expanded and built-out its headquarters, the company looked for ways to make its environmental footprint smaller.
Schools, prisons, government office buildings, libraries, and other public structures take up millions of square feet.
The Center for Green Schools champions sustainability efforts that contribute to students, teachers, and administrators’ physical and mental health. From pre-K through university education, learning in these environments can have a massive impact on future success.
Washington State and California embarked on significant initiatives to “green” their jails, saving taxpayers and the planet simultaneously.
California is a leader in environmentalism at a broader level, with many of its cities listed among the Greenest Cities in the United States. The use of space, recycling, transportation, and energy usage are just some of the many factors in the ranking.
Environmentally-focused organizations are, of course, at the top of the heroes list in this category. The Nature Conservancy, for example, is committed to helping its partners and cities adopt sustainable practices while also ensuring its building and employees are committed to environmentally-friendly and transparent work practices.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) collaborates with Greenbuild to produce an annual educational event, delivering year-round education, inspiration, and connections to all businesses interested in sustainability efforts for their structures.
Although many non-profits are involved directly in environmental causes, even those companies that do not have a sustainability mission have discovered that greener practices can save them thousands of dollars annually, freeing up funds for programs.
You Can Be a Hero Too
No matter what industry you’re in, adopting more sustainable business practices can significantly impact your customers’ and employees’ health and wellness, prolong the planet’s life, and even save you money and resources.
Reducing your carbon footprint can be done in many ways.
Simple changes, like switching to LED lighting, can reduce energy usage and create a healthier environment. The time to start is now. Get the free guide.