There is plenty you can do at home to improve your energy efficiency. But you can take your impact to the next level by supporting companies that operate more efficiently and provide products with smaller carbon footprints. In this post, learn more about the companies leading the charge to go green through a variety of great initiatives.
We often hear about major corporations and their negative impact on the environment. For example, one 2017 study found that about 100 companies were responsible for a whopping 71 percent of global fossil fuel emissions. This outsized influence might sometimes feel disheartening for your own energy efficiency efforts, important as they are. Thankfully, not all companies have been content to just sit back and let the world burn.
Numerous companies, both big and small, have undertaken their own environmental initiatives. While these efforts have not always been entirely successful, they demonstrate a willingness to continuously adapt and innovate. In this article, we highlight ten such companies. Each of these companies, in their own way, has proven to be one of the companies leading the charge to go green.
What does it mean to be a green company?
At this point, you might be wondering what exactly qualifies a company as “green” or proves its commitment to environmental causes. This is tough to pin down since every company’s approach to energy efficiency and environmental responsibility is different. We’ll highlight each company’s current efforts in a bit more detail below. But first, here are a few of the general tactics in which they’ve engaged.
Reducing Carbon Emissions and Electricity Usage
Just like us, companies can try to cut down on how much energy they use. This might include relying on more ENERGYSTAR products in their offices or factories. Given the scales at which some companies operate, something as simple as switching out one computer monitor model for another could result in significantly reduced energy usage. This is because that change can affect a thousand or more different computer stations.
Similarly, companies can benefit from implementing the same kinds of electricity-reducing strategies we utilize at home. For example, ensuring proper insulation for windows or cutting down on phantom loads can have just as big an impact at an office as it does in your living room. Many companies have recognized the importance of embracing this kind of change. Thy justify the implementation cost through the savings in reduced power consumption. Just like we do in our own homes!
Switching to More Renewable Energy
Similarly, some companies have embraced renewable energy as another alternative to cut down on their power costs while also aiding the environment. The most common of these is solar power. Many of the increases in overall solar capacity across the U.S. can be attributed to large corporations, whose own solar expansions dwarf those of many states. The more companies become self-sufficient for their power needs, the better off we’ll all be. For a quick primer on solar power, check out our beginner’s guide.
Recycling More Materials
One perhaps lesser-known area in which many companies could improve is how they handle disposing of various types of waste. This can include trying to reduce the amount of materials needed in manufacturing processes. Or it could be coming up with better ways to dispose of those materials with reduced environmental impact. However, it can also involve managing the waste generated as a result of poor consumer practices.
Many companies, particularly technology companies, have historically practiced what is called planned obsolescence. This is the deliberate design of new technology so that it must be replaced every couple of years in order to drive continued consumer sales of new designs. Not only is this typically not great for the consumer; it is also actively harmful for the environment. If people throw away their cellphones every couple of years to get a new one, that generates a ton of extra waste. Some companies have adopted new design philosophies, such as ensuring new products and accessories are backwards compatible with older models. Other companies have tried to address this problem by ensuring their materials are recyclable or reusing old products in the manufacturing of new ones.
Encouraging Environmental Activism
Regardless of whether a company can successfully change their manufacturing processes or adopt new technologies, one thing every company can do is create a culture of environmental activism. Companies might do this in various ways. From making it clear to their employees that energy efficiency is one of their priorities, to cultivating a culture based around speaking up about sustainability issues. Companies might also support various non-profits or other initiatives dedicated to protecting the environment, either through financial donations or simply by helping to get the word out.
Researching New Technologies
Not all companies are in a position to participate in the research and development of new technologies for energy efficiency. However, there are some companies who place their focus on designing new and improved systems to reduce power consumption or otherwise contribute to the environmental effort. These new technologies can then spread beyond just internal company use to become adopted by more companies, as well as consumers.
8 Companies Leading the Charge to Go Green
Without further ado then, we’d like to present brief overviews for ten companies leading the charge to go green. This is certainly not a comprehensive list of every company dedicated to energy efficiency. However, if you want to learn more about some of the major companies dedicated to preserving the environment, these eight represent a good place to start.
When it comes to sustainability, Apple is near the top of the list. Apple has committed to a number of environmental initiatives, releasing an Environmental Responsibility Report in 2019 to detail their progress. Overall, they have made a great deal of progress the last few years. All of Apple’s operations centers have switched over to renewable energy. And in 2018, they managed to reduce their energy use by a jaw-dropping 70 percent. Apple has further committed to improving their manufacturing processes to use more recyclable materials, with the goal of one day no longer needing to mine any new materials. They still have their work cut out for them. As recently as 2018, their production of hazardous waste had increased more than sixfold. But they have proven they are willing to put in the effort to make strides in a number of key areas.
Among the various tech giants, Google has also made great strides in enhancing their energy efficiency. They too have long supported sustainability, releasing a regular environmental report on their progress to achieve their initiatives. Their data centers are twice as efficient as those of other companies. And they have worked to cut power consumption across the various facets of their business. Google has also committed to becoming a zero-waste company. While they have not yet entirely achieved that goal, six out of their 14 data centers had as of 2017. Google has also been working to produce and promote various devices to aid consumers in enhancing their own energy efficiency, such as the popular Google Nest smart thermostats. These thermostats can result in a significant reduction of energy expenditure.
Finishing off the top tech companies from this list is Microsoft. Microsoft may not have quite as forward-facing of an image as Apple or Google, both of whom are known for their sense of innovation. However, that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from undertaking their own energy initiatives. Microsoft has already become carbon neutral, meaning that their funding of renewable energy projects balances out any carbon they generate. By 2030, they hope to have actually become carbon negative. And by 2050, they hope that their various initiatives will have actually removed as much carbon as their company has generated since its founding in 1975. A lofty goal indeed! Microsoft has not always been the best when it comes to things like planned obsolescence in product designs. However, they remain committed to doing better, and their progress in areas like packaging recyclability encourage optimism.
Fairphone has consistently been one of the best manufacturers when it comes to creating products that can be repaired or upgraded. Compared to the likes of Apple, Fairphone is a tiny portion of the cellphone market. However, they have truly made sustainable and ethical manufacturing the central tenet of their business. Their phone’s modular design makes it easy to upgrade components and extend the phone’s lifecycle. Similarly, all of the materials used in its manufacturing come from certified sustainable sources. The Fairphone 3 is arguably the most sustainable phone in the world. It’s not available in the US yet, but keep your eyes peeled!
Since 2010, Unilever has shifted their business goals to embrace sustainable living. Their Unilever Sustainable Living Plan defined a number of environmental and social commitments, all revolving around making our world a better place. This shift in corporate culture was widely communicated across the company and has resonated with employees, who have enthusiastically embraced this higher purpose and Unilever’s grand efforts. They have also proven successful at lessening the company’s environmental impact. For example, helping Unilever reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 52 percent from 2008 to 2018. Unilever has also been a leader in reducing waste, with many of their factories and sites sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfills.
Marks & Spencer launched their Plan A initiative in 2007. This plan committed the company to the cause of environmental sustainability for the betterment of all. Since then, they have become the world’s first major retailer to reach carbon neutral status. They have also instituted a variety of standards for their suppliers and engaged in various initiatives tied to reducing emissions or upholding human rights. Part of what has made this effort so successful is how they successfully appealed to their employees. They have encouraged their team to embrace this mission on a personal level. Since 2007, their waste has gone down and carbon emissions have been reduced by an impressive 75 percent.
Cisco Systems has made taking care of the planet one of their top priorities with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan. Not only have they set lofty goals for themselves; they have also begun making consistent progress towards them. For example, 83 percent of their energy now comes from renewable sources and they’ve reduced greenhouse gases by 49 percent. Cisco has further expanded their efforts to include not just themselves but also their employees and suppliers, encouraging more sustainable practices. In one project, they developed technology for a Rhino conservation project in conjunction with Dimension Data. This helped reduce rhino poaching in southern Africa by 96 percent.
Hewlett-Packard (HP) has made a point of continuing to increase its product offerings that can be repaired or upgraded. This is reducing planned obsolescence and thus cutting down on waste. HP has also undertaken other initiatives related to sustainability. For example, cutting down on plastic pollution and partnering with ENERGYSTAR to create more energy efficient printers.
Take Heart and Support Companies Leading the Charge to Go Green
These eight companies are just a handful of the many that are prioritizing the environment and sustainable practices over pure profit. As these companies leading the charge to go green have found, business and the environment can coexist beautifully and many practices that reduce carbon emissions and waste also help cut costs in the long run. When you can, consider supporting these companies and others like them to provide further incentives to continue down this path.
Beyond such business practices, there remains plenty that our government and that we as individuals can do to improve energy efficiency. Make sure you continue to invest in your own future. Cut down on your electricity usage both to reduce pollution and to save money on your power bill. And of course, if you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to save money while boosting your energy efficiency, consider subscribing to our blog so you can get all our latest content!