At a time when green-washing is rampant, it can be difficult to know which companies are working to minimize their eco impact and which ones are only pretending to do their part.
Skepticism is on the rise: According to new research conducted by brand marketing firm Cone, 57 percent of respondents didn’t trust environmental claims made by companies.
Not all companies making green claims are guilty of false advertising, though. These four companies demonstrate a serious commitment to the environment through products and processes designed to protect the planet.
Since Patagonia was founded in 1972, the outdoor activewear company has embraced its mission statement: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” All aspects of the company, from the LEED Gold-certified customer service center in Reno, Nev., to clothing manufactured from organic cotton and recycled soda bottles, exemplifies a commitment to sustainability.
In 1985, Patagonia launched an environmental grants program called 1% for the Planet to contribute 1 percent of sales to environmental causes. To date, donations have totaled more than $40 million.
Employees are encouraged to participate in sustainability, too. Staff can take up to one month off of work to volunteer for the environmental group of their choice while Patagonia continues to pay their salaries and benefits.
The largest home-furnishing retailer in the world is doing its part to make big profits with a small environmental impact.
In its 2010 sustainability report, the Swedish furniture giant documents its progress toward lightening its environmental footprint, including increasing the number of products made from certified wood and sustainable cotton and continuing efforts to phase out the sale of incandescent bulbs.
In 2010, IKEA initiated solar-panel projects at seven IKEA stores in the U.S., announced that the newest store in Centennial, Colo., will be built using geothermal technology and helped reduce CO2 emissions by planting 1.5 million trees through the IKEA Plant a Tree Campaign.
By 2015, the company aims for all home furnishing products sold in its stores to be made from renewable, recyclable or recycled materials; plans to have zero waste from its operations end up in the landfill; and pledges to evaluate all of its purchasing decisions based on a sustainability scorecard to ensure its products are increasingly more eco-friendly.
Since Clif Bar was founded in 1992, significant efforts have been devoted to developing products that are as eco-friendly as they are tasty.
Clif Bar is committed to using organic ingredients, upcycling product wrappers and donating 1 percent of its sales to environmental organizations. Those efforts have led to significant environmental achievements. Since 2003, the company has purchased more than 100 million pounds of organics and collected nearly 5 million wrappers, turning them into new products.
In 2010, the headquarters in Emeryville, Calif., got a green makeover: 100 percent of the wood used to construct the building was reclaimed or harvested from sustainably managed forests, solar power provides almost all of its electricity needs, and 75 percent of construction debris was diverted from the landfill by recycling and composting. The onsite cafeteria serves organic foods sourced from local farmers. There’s even a full-time ecologist on staff to lead in-house sustainability programs.
To encourage its employees to be good stewards of the environment, Clif Bar offers staff up to $500 towards purchasing or retrofitting a commuter bike. The company’s Cool Commute program has helped employees purchase hybrid or biodiesel vehicles.
Microsoft adopted a set of environmental principles in 2006 to define the corporate commitment to protect the environment and conserve natural resources. The principles include creating energy-efficient data centers (with all future data centers designed for LEED ratings), using renewable power such as wind and solar energy, composting food waste from onsite cafeterias and conference rooms, stepping up recycling efforts, and eliminating PVC from product packaging.
Engineers are also leading efforts to use technology to address environmental issues, including developing sensors to locate energy leaks in homes and offices and designing Microsoft Dynamics Environmental Sustainability Dashboard to help businesses measure and manage their carbon footprints. Microsoft is also a member of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, an industry coalition with a goal to reduce global CO2 emissions from computers by 54 million tons annually, and Green Grid, a global consortium of technology companies dedicated to improving the energy efficiency of data centers.
Environmental efforts aren’t just happening on Microsoft campuses. The company allocates significant financial resources to environmental stewardship, providing grants to research technology issues (including $500,000 in 2008 to support research into more energy-efficient computing) and granting low-cost licenses to Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher programs to extend the life of PCs that might otherwise go to the landfill.