CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY - Some Noteworthy Mentions
Corporate sustainability can be defined as the strategy whereby a business delivers its goods and services in a way that is both environmentally sustainable and supports its economic growth. Three primary pillars are often associated with the topic of corporate sustainability: social, environmental, and economic (often known as people, planet, and profits). This way, a business prioritizes long-term growth through sustainable methods instead of focusing on short-sighted, short-term profits; a strategy that is beneficial to efficiency, sustainable growth, and shareholder value.
This idea was born from the concept of sustainable development, which is growth and development that meets the current needs of today without compromising natural resources that future generations depend on.
Lego makes handsome donations to offshore wind farms, developing plans to make their bricks sustainable and improve the energy efficiency of Lego brick production by over 12% per brick. The company’s current sustainability goals include making all core products from sustainable materials by 2030 and aiming to have zero waste go to landfill by 2025. They also have a ‘replay’ scheme whereby customers can donate used bricks to children in need rather than discard them in waste.
Microsoft has achieved great feats in sustainability, including diverting over 60,000 metric tons of waste from landfills and funding 20 different water replenishment projects in 2020. The company’s current goals include becoming completely carbon negative and producing zero waste by 2030. The innovators there are now building the planetary computer, a revolutionary computing platform that will utilize global environmental data and artificial intelligence to provide practical information for sustainability insights.
Supply chains are getting more and more vulnerable to natural disasters and civil conflict. Climate change, water scarcity, and poor labor conditions increase the risk. In the agriculture, food, and beverage sectors, the impacts of climate change are monumental. Disruptions in the supply chain may affect production processes that depend on unpriced natural capital assets such as biodiversity, groundwater, clean air, and climate.
Therefore, companies like Mars, Unilever, and Nespresso have invested in Rainforest Alliance Certification to help farmers deal with climate unpredictability, reduce land degradation, and increase resilience to drought and humidity—all of which ensure the long-term supply of their agricultural products. This Certification also improves productivity and net income.
Many companies experience risks and severe losses due to resource depletion – particularly water, which, unfortunately, had until recently been considered a free raw material and therefore used inefficiently. Coca-Cola, for instance, faced massive water shortage in India that forced it to shut down one of its plants in 2004. As the 24th biggest industrial consumer of water, Coca Cola has now invested $2 billion to reduce water use and improve water quality in the communities in which it operates.
Sustainable strategies have also led companies to innovate. Nike created the $1 billion-plus Flyknit line, which uses a specialized yarn system, requiring minimal labor and generating large profit margins. Flyknit reduces waste by 80% compared with regular cut and sew footwear. Since its launch in 2012, Flyknit has reduced 3.5 million pounds of waste and fully transitioned from yarn to recycled polyester, diverting 182 million bottles from landfills.
Procter & Gamble conducted a life cycle assessment of its products and found that U.S. households spend 3% of annual electricity budgets on heating water to wash clothes. In 2005, they launched a U.S. and European line of cold-water detergents that require 50% less energy than warm water washing.
Sustainable corporations are often the most innovative because they are constantly reviewing existing processes to find better, greener alternatives.