Amidst growing concern around climate change policy shifts, business leaders from some of the world’s largest companies are rising to the occasion and taking action to preserve the environment. The current administration proposed budget cuts that would reduce funding for the EPA by 31 percent and is expected to overturn environmental policies in an executive order that will curtail the consideration of a “social cost of carbon” during policy decision-making. While President Trump has been referred to as a pro-business leader, surprisingly, these actions may not sit well with corporate executives.
Last November, over 360 companies including Nike, eBay, Ben & Jerry’s and DuPont signed a letter urging the President to keep America in the Paris Climate Agreement. What’s more, many of Trump’s Business Council advisors are leaders in renewable energy and climate action. While much of the business community is poised to participate in the green revolution, the 500 largest companies in the world are collectively responsible for 10 percent of global emissions.
Now, more than ever, brands need to embrace a ‘We First’ mentality and build the future the world needs. While following environmentally responsible corporate principles is good for the environment, it can also save companies money, generate word-of-mouth advertising, create powerful storytelling opportunities and position brands as change-makers embracing sustainable progress.
1) Power Progress with Clean Energy: Energy is a vital input for any businesses, yet not all energy is created equally. Two thirds of electricity used in the United States comes from fossil fuels, and the electricity sector overall is responsible for 30 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, the price of solar and other renewables are fast dropping and on track to be cost competitive with the market price in the near future. Regardless of environmental implications, renewable energy reduces uncertainty about electricity costs and gives companies control over their own power.
A company truly powering progress with clean energy is General Motors. The automaker is dedicated to generating 100% of its electricity with renewable sources by 2050. As GM’s CEO Mary Barra says, it “benefits our customers and communities through cleaner air while strengthening our business through lower and more stable energy costs.”
The key takeaway here is that charging your business with renewable energy not only gives you control over your own electricity and can minimize costs in the long run, but it also reduces your carbon footprint and demonstrates how your brand is taking steps towards building a better world.
2) Maximize Efficiency with The Internet of Things: Technology today can provide businesses with an incredible amount of information about their most important inputs and the world in which they operate. The Internet of Things (IoT) enables society to monitor signals from machines, the built environment, automobiles and more, which awakens amazing potential for businesses to maximize operational efficiencies.
A brand doing an excellent job of harnessing the power of technology to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve environmental impact is IBM. For example, the company’s Watson IoT technologies are used to monitor the energy use in buildings and provide business owners with real-time information on how to cut costs and carbon. Through collaboration, IBM’s technology helps Siemens intelligent buildings avoid over 10 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.
The essential lesson here is that technology gives us the tools to measure and improve on all aspects of business. And as Wayne Balta, VP of IBM Corporate Environmental Affairs says, “Environmental sustainability must be managed as a strategic imperative, not a feel-good tactic. Success comes from recognizing and managing it as an operational business issue – and making it systemic, not an episodic fad or marketing campaign.”
3) Demand Sustainable Supply Chains: While using renewable energy and optimizing efficiency improves corporate sustainability, addressing your supply chain is an excellent way to take your eco-friendly efforts to the next level and distinguish your brand as an environmental leader.
After measuring its greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 – from electricity use, to the vehicle fleet, to product inputs – Walmart discovered that 90% of it’s carbon footprint was nested in its supply chain and supplier manufacturing.
By working with suppliers and the Environmental Defense Fund, Walmart offset over 28 million tons of CO2, surpassing its 2015 target of 20 million metric tons and setting it on track to reduce costs by an estimated $1 billion annually. The company is building on its sustainability initiatives and is dedicated to reducing emissions another 1 gigaton by 2030. Ultimately, Walmart is investing in upgrading the future of not only the partner companies that create its products, but also in the future of its operations and most importantly in the world we will leave to our grandchildren.
In essence, working internally and with your suppliers to make sustainability upgrades you can improve your bottom-line, strengthen partnerships, clean up the communities in which you operate, and generate stories worth telling that will build your business and a better world.
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