How some of the World’s Biggest Companies are Embracing Sustainability in 2019.
We can’t do it all Ourselves.
The Amazons and the Googles of this world have got to change as well if we’re going to have any chance.
We hear a whooooooooooole lot these days about what we can do, as individuals, to help the planet. Stop eating meat, stop having kids, stop taking flights, stop using single-use-plastic. Take half as many breaths per minute and only move our muscles when we really have to. All decent solutions, but will they really make much of a difference if the big bad energy devouring corporations of the world carry on emitting like there’s no (if they do keep doing what they’re doing there actually might not be) tomorrow? Probably not.
The Amazons and the Googles of this world have got to change as well if we’re going to have any chance. And you know what? It seems like they’re really starting to. Here’s a run-through of what some of the largest companies in the world are doing to benefit this great little planet of ours. Things really do seem to be changing on a large scale, and just maybe, we might actually have a chance after all. Have a look for yourself.
Just the other week, Amazon, who up until then had pretty much kept its mouth shut about the climate crisis, announced a commitment to meet the Paris Agreement, a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C, 10 years early. To fulfil this commitment, Amazon has pledged to do the following:
- Commit to net-zero carbon by 2040 and 100% renewable energy by 2030.
- Order 100,000 fully-electric delivery vehicles, the largest order ever of its kind.
- Invest $100 million in reforestation projects around the world to begin removing carbon from the atmosphere now.
- Launch a new sustainability website to report progress on commitments.
When a big player like Amazon is the instigator, others tend to follow.
This all comes as part of The Climate Pledge, an initiative Amazon has co-founded with social enterprise Global Optimism. Companies who sign up to The Climate Pledge initiative agree to do the following:
- Measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis.
- Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies.
- Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially-beneficial offsets to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.
I can’t find any evidence of other companies signing up to the climate pledge yet, but I’m pretty sure they will in time. It’s still early days, as the pledge was only announced like 13 days ago, and when a big player like Amazon is the instigator, others tend to follow.
Google recently announced a major investment in renewable energy, and is currently running various other planet-friendly projects as well. Here’s a breakdown of what they’re doing, or what they will be doing to help the environment in the near future:
- Google recently announced 18 new energy deals across the US, Chile, and Europe, which will involve purchasing energy from solar farms across the United States, and making investments in Chile that combine both wind and solar power. 1600 Megawatts of clean energy will be purchased in total, which will ‘kick-start the development of millions of solar panels, wind turbines and other construction.’
- Google.org, the companies philanthropic arm, will gift a $500,000 grant to the Renewable Energy buyers alliance in the US, and €500,000 to Re-Source in Europe. (Haha, the Europeans got a slightly better deal there! But it’s all good for the world I suppose.) The money will be used to research new renewable energy business models and provide training for consumers.
- Since last year, Google have also been publishing sustainability reports about its products and supply chain processes, and has recently pledged to make its ‘Made by Google’ line of products more sustainable, claiming that all its products will contain recyclable materials by 2022. (What percentage of each product will be made from recycled material is unclear, but you would hope that whatever it is, it will increase in time.)
- Google has also said that all of its shipments, to or from customers, will be carbon neutral by 2020. Progress has already been made on this front, according to Anna Meegan, Google’s head of sustainability for hardware, who has stated that Google managed to reduce emissions by a hefty 40% just by switching from air shipments to cargo shipments. Quite a significant number. If it’s true, that’s very impressive!
- Finally, Google also has a recycling programme for customers in the US, where it will send customers a shipping label to send back unwanted products so the raw materials can be re-used.
So there we are, that was a flip load of bullet points, and that was just Google! Onto the next one.
It’s clear that Apple is making a tremendous effort to become a more sustainable operation, and as these efforts progress, they are bound to rub off on other companies as well.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but only if the apples are clean! Well not only do all of Apple’s stores, data centres, and offices now run on renewable energy, a milestone the company achieved last year, but Apple is also now offering financial help to the companies in its supply chain so they can switch to renewable energy as well. As part of Apple’s Supplier Clean Energy program, 44 of its suppliers have already pledged to transition to 100% clean energy, with even more to follow. Apple is also aiming to introduce 4 gigawatts of clean energy into the companies supply chain by 2020. Now that’s a whole lot of clean!
Significant structural alterations to Apple’s supply chains and production processes are also being implemented, with the company working towards a closed-loop supply chain (woooooo the circular economy!!!), and adopting more efficient manufacturing processes and materials to further reduce the raw materials needed to produce its products.
Although far from perfect yet, and still with some major concerns being voiced about the sustainability of some of its products, and the working conditions in some of its factories, it’s clear that Apple is making a tremendous effort to become a more sustainable operation, and as these efforts progress, they are bound to rub off on other companies as well.
Placing all these other companies in a section called ‘the others’ doesn’t mean they’re any less important or significant than the ones I’ve already described, neither does it mean that these companies care less about saving the planet, or that they’re bad guys on a very popular but questionable TV show from the mid to late noughties. It just means that I have limited time to write this article today as I’m a busy busy boy with lots of things to do and it’s Friday, so I’m giving you the gist of what these companies are up to here and then if you like, you can go research the hell out of them yourself and respond back in the comments below with the dirty (or hopefully clean) details about exactly what these companies are up to! Sound cool? Freezing.
People are starting to demand that companies treat the planet with respect, and companies are starting to respond.
Microsoft is also moving toward renewable energy, and will be buying 230 MW of solar and wind power in Texas from a company called Engie. The company is planning to cut its carbon emission by 75% by 2030, and is targeting over 70% renewable energy for its data centres by 2023. Not quite as ambitious or effective as Apple or Amazon, but still heading in the right direction. Microsoft is also making it more expensive for its business units to ignore climate change by doubling its internal carbon fee to $15 per metric tonne. Tax that flipping carbon baby!
There’s no getting away from it to be honest; Facebook is a pretty dodgy company. Scandal after scandal, privacy breach after privacy breach, Cambridge after Analytica. It certainly doesn’t look like Mr. Zuckleburgers has the prosperity of the entire human race in mind with most of his decisions, but at least Facebook do seem to be making some moves with regard to the shift toward renewable energy. The social media (data gathering) giant has recently signed a deal for 200MW of Texas wind power as it continues its ‘track record as a major buyer of renewable energy.’ Now if they could just stop all the other dodgy business, they’d be golden! (Or green.)
Ikea probably deserves a much bigger section, as they seem to be doing quite a lot of amazing stuff with regard to the planet, but I’m running out of time! So here’s a headline that pretty much sums it up: ‘Ikea has invested in enough clean energy to power all of its operations (plus extra). The company believes that ‘the future is renewable’, and they are doing loads of brilliant stuff for the planet right now. You can read more about that here, and maybe I’ll dedicate a whole article to Ikea sometime soon, so look out for that one!
Nike have just opened a 1.5 million square foot distribution centre in Ham, Belgium, which will be powered by 100% locally sourced renewable energy. Now that is a flipping massive massive operation to be powered by 100% renewable, and incredibly impressive. Wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass energy will be utilised.
The Other Others
McDonald’s, Dell, Wall-Mart, Honda, Starbucks, Coca Cola, and plenty of other companies, to varying degrees, have also started to incorporate sustainability into their business models. This list suggests that the big companies of 2019 know they have to start taking sustainability seriously. They know it’s not just some optional extra shiny green string anymore that they can add to their business portfoli(bow) to make them seem more environmentally conscious. People are starting to demand that companies treat the planet with respect, and companies are starting to respond. Their sustainability efforts and initiatives, will only increase from here. So it seems the future of business, is very much so, looking like a sustainable one. (If it’s not then we better get out the butter and jam, and the marmalade, chocolate spread, possibly peanut butter too. Maybe some cheese?…. Cause if it’s not, then, we’re toast!)
Sustainability: The New Normal
The next time you question whether the changes you make to your own lifestyle will make a difference, just remember that a lot of the big bad companies are starting to make changes too.
A combination of evolving consumer expectation and the increasing financial viability of renewable energy and green technology is making the drive for sustainability an unavoidable reality for big companies today. Sustainability, in every sense of the word, is going mainstream.
Whether the companies listed above are finally starting to clean up their act because they care about the planet, or because it’s saving them money is anyone’s best guess (it’s probably the money thing), but either way, it doesn’t matter too much. The important thing is that change is happening. Some of the biggest companies in the world are starting to move towards a more sustainable future, and that will only push other companies to follow suit.
So the next time you question whether the changes you make to your own lifestyle will make a difference, just remember that a lot of the big bad companies are starting to make changes too.
We’re all in this together, and to truly make sustainability the new normal, we will all have to evolve. Human, and corporation, alike.
About the Author
Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.