In this rapidly evolving business landscape, environmental sustainability is no longer optional; it's a necessity.
Companies globally are leading the charge with innovative sustainability examples that are reshaping traditional business models.
We showcase some of these trailblazing corporations that are not only prioritizing profitability but also the well-being of our planet.
Their inspiring stories demonstrate that environmental consciousness and business success can, indeed, go hand in hand.
Environmental sustainability examples
To illuminate the path towards a sustainable future, let's explore a few compelling examples of environmental sustainability in the corporate world.
These companies have not only implemented green practices but also demonstrated that sustainability can lead to financial savings and competitive advantages.
Example of sustainability through renewable energy
In 2017, Google achieved 100% renewable energy for their global operations, including data centers and offices. They accomplished this by purchasing wind and solar electricity that accounted for all their energy consumption.
But they didn't stop there. In 2020, Google launched a moonshot project aiming to run data centers on carbon-free energy by 2024. This demonstrates their ongoing commitment to achieving sustainability through renewable energy.
Monsanto is an exemplary company that seamlessly integrates sustainability into its business model. With technological advancements in agriculture, it focuses on environmental sustainability.
One of their key initiative involves developing genetically modified (GM) seeds to increase crop yield while reducing pollution attributed to pesticide use. These innovative seeds improve farming profitability and minimize environmental impact.
Monsanto aligns with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, implementing water and soil management and climate-smart agricultural techniques. Their success demonstrates how sustainability drives corporate success through technology and innovation.
Public transportation sector
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City showcases sustainability in public transportation.
It prioritizes sustainability by investing in hybrid electric buses and trains, reducing reliance on traditional fuels and cutting down on pollution.
The MTA's Sustainability Initiative promotes environmental responsibility, including energy conservation, waste recycling, and sustainable commuting. Their efforts inspire global public transportation systems, proving that sustainability brings environmental benefits, operational efficiencies, and cost savings.
Sustainability example through recycling programs
IKEA's Sustainable Everyday initiative underscores its dedication to creating a better everyday life for the many people, while ensuring minimal impact on the planet.
Customers are encouraged to return their old furniture as part of IKEA's recycling program where old products are either resold, recycled, or donated, reducing waste and promoting a circular economy.
This practice not only safeguards our environment but also offers customers a practical solution to furniture disposal.
Green building technology
The Bank of America Tower exemplifies sustainable development through green building technology. It is New York City's first commercial high-rise in the U.S. to achieve LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council.
This architectural marvel incorporates advanced sustainable features on how to make a commercial building more energy efficient.
Notable technologies include a clean-burning, on-site 5.0 MW cogeneration plant, meeting 65% of the building's annual electricity needs and reducing peak daytime demand by 30%. A thermal ice storage system produces ice overnight for daytime cooling, reducing strain on the electrical grid.
Coca-Cola has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to water stewardship, realizing the critical role that water plays in both production and the broader ecosystem.
As part of its World Without Waste initiative, the industry giant aims to return to communities and nature an amount of water equivalent to what is used in their beverages and production via advanced water treatment and recycling programs.
Circular economy practices
Philips' Going Circular initiative emphasizes the need for responsible consumption and production.
It aims to deliver 25% of its total revenue from circular products, services, and solutions by 2025.
This means designing products with a longer lifespan, using fewer resources and facilitating reuse, repair, and recycling.
Waste reduction campaigns
Unilever's Waste-free World initiative aims to reduce the environmental impact of their products by half, targeting significant reduction in waste through innovative packaging solutions.
Green technology advancements
Tesla Inc. has revolutionized the industry by demonstrating that cars can be both high-performing and environmentally friendly.
The company's Master Plan, aims for the production of energy-efficient vehicles accessible to the average buyer, while also focusing on solar power and energy storage.
The combination of these strategies underscores Tesla's determination to contribute to a sustainable future by reducing carbon emissions.
Carbon offset programs
Starbucks' Sustainability Bond Commitments include investing in projects that promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as part of their wider environmental stewardship strategy.
The company has also funded projects like forest conservation and wind and solar power to offset their carbon emissions.
Alternative energy storage
German technology company, Siemens AG's Silyzer product line shows how hydrogen can be used for large-scale energy storage, addressing one of the key challenges in the shift to renewable energy sources.
By using excess renewable energy to power electrolysis, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen. This process allows for the storage of energy in the form of hydrogen, which can be converted back into electricity when needed.
Green shipping models
Recognizing the significant environmental impact of maritime shipping on pollution, Maersk has set an ambitious goal to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The company is exploring innovative technologies, such as carbon-neutral vessels and biofuels, to achieve this target.
Creating corporate sustainability programs
Now that we've explored some of the leading examples of corporate sustainability, it's essential to understand how companies can create successful sustainability programs.
In the face of growing global environmental challenges, businesses have a crucial role to play in driving environmental sustainability projects forward.
1. Create a mission statement for your sustainable initiatives
An effective corporate sustainability program begins with a clear and inspiring mission statement.
This statement should outline your company's core sustainability goals and values, serving as a guiding light for all subsequent efforts.
It should be concise, specific, and passionately express your organization's commitment to environmental stewardship.
To create a powerful mission statement, engage in dialogue with all stakeholders, including employees, shareholders, and customers. Seek their input on the environmental issues that are most important to them, and identify ways your company can make a meaningful impact in these areas.
Once the mission statement is crafted, announce it across all company platforms. This includes internal communications, social media, and any public-facing marketing materials.
2. Create a "green team" to spearhead objectives
This team should comprise members from various departments to ensure a diverse range of perspectives and skills and be given the training, resources, and authority necessary to implement sustainability strategies across all operations.
The green team will act as the sustainability ambassadors within your company, promoting and encouraging environmentally friendly practices both internally and externally through:
- Awareness campaigns
- Green protocols for everyday tasks
Make sure to provide the green team with regular opportunities to report back to senior leaders. This not only keeps everyone informed of the progress made but also ensures that sustainability remains a top priority at the executive level.
3. Create a plan for meeting your environmental sustainability goals
This plan should be derived from your mission statement, mapping out specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives that align with your company's sustainability vision.
To create this plan, first identify the areas where your company has the most significant environmental impact. This could include:
- Energy consumption
- Waste generation
- Water usage
- Carbon emissions
- Supply chain operations.
Then, establish clear, quantifiable targets for each of these areas and outline the specific actions your company will take to achieve it. Be sure to identify who will be responsible for implementing each action and set clear deadlines for completion.
Your plan should also include regular progress assessments to track progress towards the sustainability goals and identify any areas where adjustments may be needed.
4. Undergo an eco assessment
This comprehensive evaluation will help you understand your company's current environmental impact, and will provide a benchmark against which future progress can be measured.
Assessment results should be used to identify key areas of concern and to prioritize your sustainability efforts.
Regular assessments should be part of your company's sustainability strategy to continuously track and measure your progress, and adjust your actions as necessary.
5. Choose a sustainability initiative to focus on
This could be anything from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to implementing a recycling program or sourcing materials from sustainable suppliers.
It's crucial to choose an initiative that not only aligns with your company's environmental objectives but also one that is feasible for your business model, such as:
- Water conservation and responsible usage practices
- Sustainable transportation solutions for employee commuting or business travel
- Sustainable supply chain partnerships and sourcing materials from eco-friendly suppliers
- Renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines
6. Implement social responsibility
Social responsibility and sustainability go hand-in-hand, both aiming to create a positive impact on the community and the environment, which can be done via:
- Promote fairness, transparency, and respect for all employees. An inclusive and diverse workplace boosts employee morale, fosters innovation, and enhances your company's reputation.
- Encourage employees to engage in volunteering activities to support local communities. Not only does this make a tangible difference in your community, but it also cultivates a sense of purpose and unity among your employees.
- Implementing initiatives beyond your company — educational programs, supporting local businesses, or working towards social equity in your industry.
7. Announce sustainability objectives to stakeholders
Open and transparent communication ensures everyone is aligned with your company's sustainability vision and understands the role they can play to help achieve these objectives.
Start by creating a formal announcement that outlines your sustainability goals, the initiatives you plan to implement, and the measures you'll use to assess progress.
In addition, consider holding informational sessions, workshops, or webinars to further educate stakeholders about your sustainability plan..
8. Set up an accountability system
Accountability includes setting clear responsibilities, defining performance metrics, and instituting regular progress review mechanisms:
- Assign specific roles and responsibilities to individuals or teams within your organization.
- Define key performance indicators (KPIs) that will measure the success of each sustainability initiative — both quantitative and qualitative.
- Establish regular check-ins to assess progress based on these KPIs.
9. Obtain certifications
To start the process, research which certifications are most relevant to your industry and sustainability goals. Then, thoroughly review the criteria for each certification to understand what changes or initiatives you may need to implement in order to qualify.
Here are a few of the most widely recognized sustainability certifications:
- B Corp: For companies that meet rigorous social and environmental standards, commit to transparency, and prioritize stakeholder interests.
- LEED: Focuses on sustainable building design and construction.
- Fair Trade Certified: Indicates that a company adheres to fair labor practices, pays fair prices to producers, supports community development, and promotes environmental sustainability.
- Green Seal: For companies that meet rigorous environmental standards in their products and operations.
- ISO 14001: Outlines requirements for companies to minimize their impact on the environment.
- GRI: Helps companies track, measure, and communicate their environmental, social, and governance performance.
Upon successful certification, proudly display your credentials — they not only bolster your brand's credibility, but they also allow your company to stand out in a competitive market.
Sustainability in business examples: 9 corporate sustainability initiatives and goals
So, what are some examples of sustainability initiatives for companies?
The following corporate sustainability goals examples offer valuable insights, demonstrating the variety of ways in which businesses can incorporate sustainability into their models:
Switch to lighting as a service solutions
Companies like FES Lighting offer lighting as a service solutions, where efficient LED lights are installed and maintained by the provider.
This helps companies reduce energy usage and costs without any upfront investment.
Such an initiative can lead to cost savings and improved operational efficiency. Consider that LED lighting in the workplace can reduce electricity costs up to 70% compared to traditional lighting, resulting in significant long-term savings for a company.
And if you're worried about the upfront cost of an LED retrofit for your business, FES offers LED lighting financing options to help companies get started on their sustainability journey.
For an idea on how much do LED lights save per month over traditional lighting, we recommend checking out our LED energy savings calculator.
Green company initiatives for reducing electricity use
Here are a few strategies that companies have implemented to achieve this goal:
- Energy-efficient lighting: Companies such as Walmart and Target have invested in LED lighting upgrades, which use less energy than traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs and result in significant cost savings while reducing their carbon footprint.
- Renewable energy sources: Google and Apple have invested in renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, allowing them to offset their electricity use with clean, sustainable alternatives.
- Incentivizing employees: Adobe has implemented a sustainability program that encourages employees to reduce their energy use at work by offering incentives.
Sustainable projects for raising commuting efficiency
Improving commuting efficiency can be achieved by encouraging employees to limit their reliance on single-occupancy vehicles, which contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions:
- Carpooling: Microsoft and Facebook offer a platform for employees to share rides to work, thereby reducing the number of vehicles on the road.
- Shuttles: Google is well-known for operating shuttle buses for employees, reducing the need for individual car commutes and thus decreasing carbon emissions.
- Bike-to-work: Adobe and Amazon have introduced bike-to-work schemes, providing safe storage for bicycles and shower facilities to make cycling to work a feasible option.
- Remote working: With the rise of technology facilitating remote work, companies like Twitter and Shopify have introduced policies allowing employees to work from home, eliminating commuting altogether.
- Public transport: To encourage public transportation use, LinkedIn offers transit subsidies to improve affordability for its employees.
Promote recycling within the company
Recycling is an effective approach to sustainability that helps to reduce waste and conserve natural resources:
- Recycling stations: Starbucks' and IKEA's recycling stations make it easier for employees and customers to dispose of their waste responsibly.
- E-waste recycling: Dell and HP have e-waste recycling programs, ensuring that old and unused electronics are not dumped in landfills.
- Paper recycling: Xerox and Canon promote paper recycling by placing dedicated bins within their offices. They also encourage digital workflows to reduce paper use.
- Green procurement policies: Unilever and Walmart have green procurement policies to purchase recycled and environmentally friendly products.
- Recycling education: Patagonia and Lego provide education and training to their employees about the importance of recycling and how to do it correctly.
Another notable application for recycling is in restaurant sustainability, where food waste can be composted instead of ending up in landfills.
By implementing these initiatives, companies can significantly reduce their environmental impact and promote a circular economy.
Incentivize employees to participate in sustainability-related projects
Encouraging employee participation in sustainability-related projects is a powerful way to cultivate a culture of sustainability:
- Volunteering opportunities: Salesforce and Patagonia offer paid volunteering time off, allowing their employees to contribute to environmental projects during work hours.
- Green team networks: Amazon and Microsoft have established voluntary, employee-led groups that plan and implement sustainability projects within their offices or local communities.
- Sustainability challenges: Cisco runs a yearly "Eco-Challenge", where teams compete to conserve the most energy, reduce waste, or use alternative transportation.
- Sustainability training programs: IBM and Unilever educate employees about sustainability issues and solutions.
Minimize business-related trips
Nowadays, a lot of business communications and meetings can be done virtually, thanks to advanced technology:
- Virtual meetings: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to become more reliant on the likes of Zoom, enabling collaboration without the need for travel.
- Remote working not only reduces carbon emissions but also provides employees with greater flexibility and work-life balance.
- Travel policies can encourage lower-emission travel options. For example, Microsoft has a policy that promotes rail travel over short-haul flights, where feasible.
- Carbon offsetting: Google and Delta Air Lines invest in carbon offset programs to counterbalance the carbon emissions produced from business travel by investing in renewable energy projects or tree planting initiatives.
Introducing plants and natural light in workspaces
Introducing plants and natural light into workspaces not only contributes to a healthier environment but also promotes well-being and productivity among employees:
- Biophilic design: Etsy and Amazon have incorporated biophilic design principles into their offices, integrating natural elements like indoor plants, living walls, and wooden furniture.
- Natural lighting: Salesforce and Deloitte have designed their offices with large windows, skylights, and open floor plans to maximize the use of natural daylight.
- Green roofs and terraces: Facebook's and Google's green roofs and terraces provide employees with access to outdoor areas, promoting relaxation and fostering a deeper connection with nature.
Invest in more efficient office equipment and technologies
Upgrading to energy-efficient appliances and electronics can result in significant energy savings and lower operational costs:
- Energy-efficient appliances: Siemens and GE produce a range of energy-efficient appliances, from refrigerators to lighting systems, which can significantly reduce energy consumption in the office.
- Smart energy systems from the likes of Honeywell and Schneider Electric can intelligently manage lighting, heating, and cooling based on occupancy and usage, resulting in substantial energy savings.
- Upgrading IT infrastructure: Regular upgrades of IT infrastructure with newer, more energy-efficient models can lead to considerable energy savings.
- Energy management software from Johnson Controls and Siemens can provide valuable insights into a company's energy usage, identify inefficiencies and recommend optimizations.
Encourage the use of digital platforms for documentation and communication
The digitization of documentation and communication results in a significant decrease in the use of paper and other physical resources, thus minimizing the environmental impact of a company's operations:
- Digital documentation platforms: Google Workspace and Microsoft Office 365 provide a suite of applications for creating, sharing, and storing documents online.
- Communication tools: Instant messaging and communication tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom can replace traditional forms of communication like memos and face-to-face meetings.
- Digital signing tools: Adobe Sign or DocuSign can be used to sign official documents instead of manually printing and signing.
- Training and awareness about the benefits and usage of digital platforms fosters an understanding of the environmental impact of their actions and promotes a shift towards digital practices.
Seek out partners that share sustainability goals
This shared commitment towards common goals can foster better collaboration, efficiency, and innovation:
- Supply chain partners: Scrutinize the environmental policies of potential partners or preferring suppliers that hold certifications like ISO 14001.
- Service providers: This might mean choosing a cloud service provider that uses renewable energy, or a cleaning company that uses eco-friendly products.
- Sustainable collaborations: Collaborating on a joint research project, sharing best practices, or even jointly investing in renewable energy projects.
- Associations and nonprofits: Can provide valuable resources and guidance, while also indicating the company's commitment to stakeholders.
Shift your way to sustainability with FES Lighting
An immediately affordable way to a greener future is by converting to LED lighting.
Traditionally, this comes with an up-front investment. However, with our model and commercial lighting solutions, there is no initial investment on your part.
This greatly reduces the barrier of entry to LED lighting, facilitating in a much more rapid transition to more efficient lighting.
Key takeaways on company environmental initiatives
By setting and achieving robust environmental goals, businesses can not only contribute to sustainable development but also realize significant operational and financial benefits.
Here are a few key points to consider when setting environmental goals for a business:
- Quantifiable objectives: Environmental goals should be clear, specific, and measurable. Whether it's reducing energy consumption by 20% or eliminating paper waste in the office, having quantifiable objectives allows businesses to track their progress accurately and make adjustments as needed.
- Employee engagement: This could involve creating green teams, setting up suggestion boxes, or rewarding eco-friendly behaviors. Employee engagement can significantly accelerate a company's sustainability journey, fostering a culture of environmental responsibility.
- Sustainability as a strategy: Aligning environmental goals with business objectives, which can lead to better decision making and enhanced sustainability outcomes.
- Continuous improvement: Sustainability is a journey, not a destination. Businesses should continuously review their environmental performance, learn from their experiences, and set new, more ambitious goals.
Ultimately, your approach to sustainability must align with your unique business goals, values, and capabilities.
By incorporating environmental considerations into the core of your organization, you can create a more sustainable environment for future generations to meet their own needs without compromising the ability of others to do so.
What are sustainability initiatives?
Sustainability initiatives refer to measures taken by organizations to minimize their negative impact on the environment, society, and economy. They include practices like energy efficiency, waste reduction, responsible sourcing, recycling, water conservation, alternative power and promoting employee well-being. These initiatives align business operations with sustainable development goals.
What is the goal of a sustainable environment?
The goal of a sustainable environment is to carefully manage, conserve, and restore the natural resources and ecosystems that support life and human societies. By adopting sustainable practices, we can ensure the continued availability of essential resources such as clean air, water, and fertile land.
What are some examples of sustainable business practices?
Sustainable business practices encompass a wide range of initiatives aimed at reducing environmental impact and promoting social and economic well-being. These practices include not only reducing energy consumption and implementing recycling programs, but also embracing renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines.