To create meaningful change when it comes to the protection of our planet, we need to pursue sustainability at the industry level. Businesses have a unique and important opportunity to be a part of the solution. The same opportunity isn’t as readily accessible by individuals, or governments for that matter, due to lack of funding, limited reach and scale, red tape, slow governmental rulings, and more.
With the irrefutable knowledge that they are major contributors to the global climate crisis, several large, household companies have taken serious responsibility when it comes to protecting our environment by becoming innovative environmental leaders in their respective industries. In honor of Earth Day, we want to applaud the major steps these companies have taken to reduce the magnitude of their footprint.
Patagonia’s mission statement reads: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” As a company, Patagonia is adamant that the environmental crisis has reached a critical tipping point that demands action if we hope to survive . If we continue without global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, defend clean water and air, and divest from dirty technologies, we will ultimately destroy our planet. Thus, Patagonia has made the protection and preservation of the environment a full time job. That being said, they fully acknowledge that their business is a part of the problem: they make products using fossil fuels, create waste, emit carbon into the air, consume electricity (both renewable and not), and even ship their products around the world in plastic bags. Knowing they are part of the problem helps Patagonia to stay focused on specific things they can do to reduce, neutralize, and even reverse the root causes of climate change. To say that Patagonia is an activist company would be an understatement. Read more about the diverse and lengthy ways Patagonia is working to protect our planet.
Along with committing to a broad range of goals to reduce their environmental impact, Hershey is continually searching for new ways to reuse material and reduce overall waste. As a whole, Hershey has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025 through the use of new machinery. They have also pledged to ensure that the palm oil they purchase is deforestation-free and grown and processed sustainability by 2017. Hershey has a goal of achieving zero-waste-to-landfill status at all facilities by 2025, building on their existing roster of 11 zero-to-waste-landfill facilities. They also aim to reduce water use by 25% by 2025, building on their existing progress of reducing water use by 70% since 2009. Their water projects started in 2014 are expected to save more than 20 million gallons of water through state of the art technology that will produce cleaner water at the end of manufacturing. New desalination systems will clean water more efficiently and help to recover 13 million gallons of well water per year. Lastly, they want to save an additional 25 millions pounds of packing material by 2025, augmenting the 16 million pounds they have already saved since reducing the weight of each wrapper by 0.05 grams.
Timberland strives to be Earthkeepers at every level of their company by making their products responsibly, operating with accountability, and continuing to innovate. They have stabled rigorous environmental standards—Timberland Environmental Product Standards—across all their product categories. The overarching goal is to significantly increase their use of recycled, organic and renewable materials like recycled rubber and PET. In terms of waste, Timberland has an ultimate goal of Zero Waste aiming for a 95% waste diversion rate by 2020. Their 2015 results were a 54% diversion rate. By 2020, they also aim to reduce their use of energy by 10% and source 50% of their energy from renewable sources.The 2015 result was 32% renewable energy. Timberland also manufactures their products in a responsible manner. In 2015, they used 1 million pounds of recycled PET and 379 metric tons of recycled rubber in their footwear. In the same year, their footwear became 98% PVC free. Product aside, the company culture is embedded with commitments to our planet. Since 2001, the company has helped to plant a whopping 10 million trees that aid in critical reforestation. In 2015, their employees completed their one millionth service hour, arranging 5,000 service projects in communities around the globe since 2010.
The nature of the airline industry does not lend itself to sustainability. Transportation of millions of passengers each year requires enormous quantities of petroleum-based fuels that come at a significant cost to the environment. In addition to the overall use of unsustainable materials, in-flight services generate tons of waste, and large amounts of energy are consumed in ground facilities. With a full understanding of how their business impacts the environment, the Alaska Air Group of Alaska Airlines has made a commitment to finding innovative ways to reduce the impact of their services, facilities, and equipment.
In 2015, Alaska Airlines reduced mainline emissions by 1.1%, reaching a 12% overall reduction from their 2009 baseline. They achieved this improvement in two key ways. The first was by changing how they fly. The airline has been a pioneer in developing innovative Required Navigation Performance (RNP) approaches that drastically reduce emissions during descent by using satellite-based rather than ground-based navigation. This results in significantly more direct and efficient flight paths. In 2015, they used RNP arrival and departure procedures on 12,858 flights, saving 3.65 million pounds of fuel and reducing emissions by 5,259 metric tons of CO2 and equivalent gases. The second way Alaska reduced emissions was by making changes to their fleet. Their young, all-Boeing mainline jet aircraft are the most fuel-efficient in their class. They additionally equipped 85% of their fleet with split scimitar winglets, saving an additional 2 million gallons of fuel in 2015. These efforts have helped Alaska Airlines achieve the number one ranking in efficiency by the International Council on Clean Transportation for give years in a row.
Read more about their impressive list of sustainability innitiatives here.
Levi Strauss & Company
Did you know it takes over 1,800 gallons of water to produce the cotton needed for a single pair of blue jeans? With the world’s most precious resource becoming increasingly scarce, The Levi Strauss & Company has focused their sustainability initiatives on water. Levi's Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) focuses on decreasing the environmental impact of cotton, improving labor standards and increasing the economic livelihood for farmers. The program requires farmers to use water efficiently and care for its availability. BCI farmers use up to 18 percent less water than non-BCI farmers in comparable locations. In terms of production, Levi’s is looking at all areas of their supply chain – from fabric mills to laundries – to identify ways to reduce their water use and eliminate the discharge of hazardous chemicals from production. The result was a series of innovative finishing techniques called Water<Less™, which can save up to 96% of the water used in the denim finishing process. Since launching the Water<Less™ processes in 2011, Levi’s has saved more than 1 billion liters of water in the manufacturing of LS&Co. products. This comes with saving 30 million liters of fresh water through the industry’s first Water Recycling and Reuse Standard. They have gone a step further to make their Water<Less™ innovations publicly available to others inside and outside their industry, encouraging other denim companies to implement them in their production.
If the apparel industry could use these Water<Less™ innovations, at least 50 billion liters of water could be saved by 2020.
From the rainwater that feeds coffee crops or the drinking water used to make their beverages, Keurig understands that water is both a fundamental part of their business and a critical natural resource. For every Keurig beverage made, they restore the same volume of water through products that focus on enhancing watersheds, protecting habitats, and conserving water. To date, they have balanced more than 524 million gallons through projects in the United States. Along with charity, Keurig has brought clean water to more than 81,000 people in the coffee-growing countries of Rwanda and Ethiopia.
Keurig is making every cup matter, working towards attaining a set of sustainability targets by 2020 that include the making of 100% K-Cup pods recyclable, achieving zero waste-to-landfill at their owned and operated manufacturing and distribution facilities, reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of brewed beverages by 25%. and source 100% of primary agricultural and manufactured products according to their responsible sourcing guidelines.
In the past, companies have adopted sustainable platforms in order to comply with government regulations and avoid fines. Today, a growing number of companies are making sustainability a core value of doing business. They do so in order to contribute to the conversation on protecting our planet as well as make a significant impact on our environment. Overall, the benefits of ‘going green’ are boundless, ranging from positive brand reputation to decreased costs, and a general readiness for a future without an abundance of resources. Yes, adopting sustainable initiatives is no small feat, requiring a massive shift in business procedures, company culture, and even products. The companies discussed in this post demonstrate that no matter what the industry is, it is possible for each and every one of us to do something to protect our Earth for generations to come. As we say, it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness.