9 Giant Companies That Have Made Impressive Green Commitments This Year
These days, you'd be hard-pressed to find a company that hasn't made at least one commitment to environmental causes—after all, it's not just good for the planet; it's good for business, too. Consumers, particularly millennials, are more likely to buy from brands that lead with messages of sustainability and ethical business standards. And in a world where global warming is already affecting many people's way of life, doing business in a way that softens the blow on the planet is a way to mitigate future risk.
The bad news is that now that some kind of sustainability is somewhat of a marketing necessity, it paves the way for companies to resort to greenwashing in an attempt to lure consumers. Fortunately, some major players are making green commitments with real deliverables. Here are nine multimillion- (sometimes billion-) dollar companies that have taken powerful, measurable steps to push the needle on corporate sustainability:
Adidas' Parley collection sets a new standard for activewear design. The shoes, swimwear, and apparel are made using plastic retrieved from beaches and oceans. Although collecting this trash, breaking it down, and reassembling it into gear is a time-consuming and expensive process, it's part of the company's commitment to exclusively use recycled plastics in all of its products by 2024. As of now, about half of Adidas products are made of plastic (sometimes in the form of polyester), so this would prove a massive switch in a relatively short time frame.
Starbucks has made headlines for its decision to ban single-use plastic straws from its 28,000-plus locations around the world by 2020 (if you haven't heard, it will be replacing them with a new lid that is still plastic BUT unlike straws can be recycled). But the coffee mecca has worked to send less plastic to landfill in other ways, too. Over in the United Kingdom, Starbucks stores are piloting a tax on to-go cups to encourage people to bring their own reusable ones, and the brand has teamed up with McDonald's to design a recyclable, compostable cup that can become a food-industry standard.
In addition to agreeing to redesign its cups, the largest restaurant chain in the world set the goal back in January of making all of its wrappers, straws, and Happy Meal boxes recyclable and responsibly sourced by 2025. "If McDonald's delivers, the new measures could eliminate lots of fossil-fuel-derived plastic, boost demand for sustainably certified paper sources, and create additional market demand for recycled-content materials," Jonathan Kaplan, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s food and agriculture program, said of the target.
Unilever—the parent company behind home, food, and beauty brands like Breyers, Dove, and Lipton—unveiled its new headquarters this year, and it's an impressive feat in green building design. The space is complete with 15,000 sensors that keep close tabs on temperature, water use, and electricity, and its designer bets that the office's water and carbon emissions will decrease 50 percent over the next 10 years (he's so confident that he's willing to shell out a full refund if they don't).
5. Danone North America
This year, food giant Danone North America achieved a B-corp certification—a gold standard that designates companies that practice transparency, sustainability, and ethical practices across their entire supply chain—and became the largest company to do so. The corporation behind dairy- and plant-based names like Silk, Oikos, and Dannon is also an early adopter of regenerative farming practices that have the potential to extract carbon from the air. It's part of a collection of companies working in tandem to dream up what an industry-wide regenerative standard could look like.
Earlier this summer, WeWork announced it would ban meat from company events and refuse to reimburse any expenses that include meat. It's a bold move, but the co-working space expects it could save 16.7 billion gallons of water, 445.1 million pounds of CO2 emissions, and over 15 million animals by 2023.
The brand behind one of the most infamous reusable bags out there has long been working on cutting down its emissions. And this year, it committed to constructing all of its products out of recycled materials or making them completely recyclable themselves by 2030. The Swedish brand will also continue to sell new products that help customers save energy at home—think solar panels and battery storage and solar-powered lights.
With the help of legendary environmentalist and mbg Lifetime Achievement Award winner Paul Hawken, the ride-sharing company has set ambitious environmental targets, like giving 1 billion rides with electric vehicles and reducing CO2 emissions by at least 5 million tons annually by 2025. And in April, Lyft announced that it will offset every ton of carbon pollution released during its rides by donating to 3Degrees, a company that removed carbon from the atmosphere through tree plantings, cleaning up emissions, and funding renewable energy creation.
Lego is going plant-based! Starting with botanical pieces like trees, bushes, and leaves, the company is going to start to shift over from petroleum-based plastics to bioplastics made from sugar cane, which can be recycled.
Plenty of smaller companies are adopting better practices too. Here are some of our top picks in the beauty industry.