Best Practices in Sustainability
Increasingly, companies incorporate sustainability into their operations. From planting trees to creating products using recycled materials, corporate sustainability employs a variety of strategies. Some companies stand out in that their sustainability measures are holistic and inclusive. In addition to addressing environmental issues such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and renewable energy, they address concerns such as workers’ rights, active stakeholder engagement and disclosure. As a result, they provide effective, long-term solutions to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
Some companies, as illustrated below, are solid examples of how sustainability goes beyond public declarations of commitment; it is ingrained in the very way they do business. Policies, production processes, products and services are considered opportunities to promote sustainability. Everyone―clients, employees, upper management, the community―is involved, from planning to execution. Consequently, their sustainability programs are effective, long-lasting and self-preserving in ways that ensure they will carry on beyond the current leadership of the company.
PepsiCo presents its sustainability strategy and goals during its annual shareholder meeting. Stakeholders are encouraged to suggest goals and strategies that the company can present during the meeting. A May 2015 shareholder proposal urged PepsiCo to present strategies that will help reduce the use of pesticides linked to declining bee populations. Since PepsiCo relies heavily on commodity crops such as apples and oranges—crops that are dependent on pollinators like bees—a sharp drop in bee populations will affect its productivity.
This is not a new endeavor for the company, which has been publishing annual sustainability reports since 2005 . These reports present PepsiCo’s progress in the following areas:
- Human Sustainability – PepsiCo’s efforts to promote consumer nutrition by producing healthy food and beverages.
- Environmental Sustainability – PepsiCo’s commitment to operate in a manner that protects resources and minimizes the company’s environmental footprint.
- Talent Sustainability – PepsiCo’s efforts to attract top talent by creating a diverse and inclusive company culture.
In its 2014 annual report and annual sustainability report, PepsiCo presented the following accomplishments:
- By the end of 2014, its nutrition businesses produced about 20% of its net revenue .
- The amount of sodium in its food and beverage products was 10% lower compared to its 2006 baseline .
- Since 2007 , PepsiCo stopped using trans fats in its food products and shifted to healthier oils. In the same year, the company adopted other product reformulations such as reducing added sugars, adding whole grains and using sugar substitutes.
- It decreased its absolute water use by around 1 billion liters , saving an estimated USD17 million as a result.
- The number of its female executives rose from 25% to 27% in 2013 .
Patagonia’s policies emphasize environmental and social responsibility. As of this year, the company has 192 Fair Trade Certified products . These products are sewn mainly by workers at Pratibha Syntex in India. Pratibha Syntex is Patagonia’s first Fair Trade partner factory.
Patagonia pays a premium for every Fair Trade item that it buys. The extra money goes into an account that the workers handle. They can only use the funds for social, economic and environmental development projects. However, the premium can likewise be distributed as a cash bonus (Patagonia calculates the amount each worker will receive). Through the cash bonus, the company aims to help workers attain a living wage.
Patagonia’s products are made out of responsibly-sourced materials. As of 2014, all of its down products contain 100% Traceable Down . This means that the company only uses down that can be traced back to birds that are treated humanely. Patagonia’s representatives audit duck farms all the way to garment factories, to ensure that force-feeding and live-plucking of down-bearing birds do not take place and the company’s down will be used on Patagonia products only.
Patagonia also encourages its customers to join them in promoting sustainability. The company’s Worn Wear program encourages consumers to bring their worn Patagonia jackets to Patagonia stores for repair instead of buying new jackets. Consumers can also surrender their discarded Patagonia gear for recycling or repurposing. Through the Worn Wear program, the company, with the help of consumers, is able to reduce its resource consumption.
In recent years, Ford Motor Company has increased its usage of renewable materials in its vehicles. Since 2007 , Ford has been using soy-based foam in its vehicles' seat cushions and backs. The company likewise introduced plant-based castor oil foam in the instrumental panel of the 2012 Ford Focus and 2013 Ford Escape and Mustang . Castor oil foam is a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based foam—the former has at least 10% renewable content .
The interior door panels of the Ford Escape are made out of a mixture of 50% kenaf (a tropical plant that is related to cotton) and 50% plastic . The Ford Flex’s storage bins are manufactured using wheat straw-reinforced plastic . This innovation reduces Ford’s annual petroleum and carbon dioxide emissions by about 20,000 pounds and 30,000 pounds, respectively . By using renewable materials, Ford is able to conserve raw materials that can be used for future goods and services. This outcome, in turn, will ensure business continuity for the company.
Ford also promotes diversity in its workforce, attracting talent that transcends race, creed, religion, physical ability and sexual orientation. In 2013, women and minorities made up 22 and 27% of the company’s US-based workforce, respectively . In the same year, women constituted 26% of the company’s global salaried workforce . A diverse workplace cultivates more creativity and improved decision-making abilities with the inclusion of varying perspectives, which leads to greater profits.
In 2013, Ford spent USD6.4 billion on engineering, research and development (R&D) . The company’s R&D focuses on a variety of sustainability issues, including GHG emissions, oil consumption, water use, waste generation and management, sustainable materials and end-of-life management. In Europe, Ford engages in collective recycling. It has take-back and recycling facilities in 19 EU markets , where consumers can bring their old Ford vehicles for recycling. Ford then recovers certain materials (scrap metal, tires, plastic, foam, etc.) for recycling and reuse. As of 2014, all Ford vehicles being sold in Europe have reached 85% recyclability and 95% recoverability . Through its collective recycling scheme, Ford helps reduce landfill waste.
Ben & Jerry’s Caring Dairy program aims to help dairy farms in the US and Europe adopt sustainable farming practices such as crop rotation, composting and raising cows without the use of growth hormones. Cows also receive adequate food, drink, exercise, rest and are even given massages. The Caring Dairy program earned Ben & Jerry’s the Compassion in World Farming’s Good Dairy Award in 2013 . Ben & Jerry’s is the first recipient.
Instead of sending dairy waste to the local wastewater treatment facility, Ben & Jerry’s sends it to two of its Caring Dairy program member farms to be recycled into energy . These dairy farms combine the dairy waste with other farm wastes and process them in a methane digester to generate biomass energy that will power the farms. This process helps reduce the environmental impact of Ben & Jerry’s manufacturing plants.
Ben & Jerry’s sustainability measures extend to the community. Its PartnerShop Program provides free scoop shop franchises and additional support to non-profit organizations. PartnerShops provide job training to economically disadvantaged teenagers. By doing so, the program is able to help alleviate youth unemployment, as well as prepare teenagers for the world of work. When consumers are employed, they then have the money to purchase Ben & Jerry’s products.
Johnson & Johnson has a detailed policy based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Its Global Labor and Employee Guidelines require open communication between management and employees, non-discrimination, freedom of association and collective bargaining, and freedom from forced and child labor. The company is acutely aware that fair labor practices increase worker productivity by decreasing labor lawsuits and work-related illnesses and accidents. In addition, fair labor practices will ensure Johnson & Johnson’s reputation among the business community.
Johnson & Johnson expects its suppliers to behave ethically as well. In its Responsibility Standards for Suppliers , Johnson & Johnson requests that its suppliers promote ethical business conduct, product quality, fair labor and employment practices, worker health and safety, and environmental protection. Johnson & Johnson believes that working with like-minded organizations will help further its goal of promoting sustainability. And, from an operational perspective, business relationships are more productive when built on trust and common values.
Many companies profess sustainability. Genuinely sustainable companies walk the talk―they make sustainability the guiding principle of their business operations, ensuring that their policies, partnerships, products and services address ESG concerns, and doing their share in furthering a sustainable society.
FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) helps organizations recognize business drivers for sustainability practices and offers cost-effective sustainability management solutions . FCS provides guidance on industry best practices and can help you with your sustainability programs.