The planet for future generations. In the past,

The sustainability of the planet is something that is more in the forefront than ever before. Not only in the minds of people who run businesses, but for the customers of that business. No longer are people able to go about their business without considering the ramifications to the planet for future generations. In the past, businesses were never out front making strides for the sustainability of the planet. Moving forward, companies are starting to take great strides in the sustainability aspect of their business. Companies are now investing and leading the way in innovation towards sustainability, or “going green”. The listed approaches and techniques used by companies, and why they are using them, will surprise anyone who is learning about them for the first time.
Sustainability Defined
First, sustainability must be defined. Sustainability is defined as “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance (“Sustainability”).” While there are many definitions out there, this is the one that is most universally accepted. It is also called “going green” by many. Most people have heard about sustainability in the news or from their friends or family, but not a lot of people know exactly what it is and what goes into it. This is something that each generation is starting to care more about.
History of Sustainability
Next, a brief overview of the history of sustainability will give more context to the topic at hand. There are three major stories that led to sustainability going on the radar of the people. The first was in the US that developed from the people recognizing that the taming of the wilderness was destroying much of it that led to the creation of conservation laws later in the nineteenth century. The second incident came from the discovery that some chemical and physical agents that were released into the atmosphere due to industrial development were harmful to people and the environment. This led to the formation of the EPA in 1970 and other events like the creation of Earth Day. The EPA defines sustainability as “the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations (“Sustainability”).” Following this there were media and pollutant-based environmental laws created. The third story was based upon the fact that consumption and population growth were challenging the ability of Earth’s ecosystems to provide for future generations.
Why Businesses are Going Green
Moving on, now that a brief history has been laid out about sustainability, it is important to know why businesses are striving to become more sustainable. There are a number of reasons why companies are becoming more sustainable or going green. The first reason is that it reduces company costs. The initial steps to becoming sustainable might seem costly at first, but businesses that go green usually experience savings on electric, water, and gas bills overall. The purchasing of energy-efficient equipment and supplies such as printers, computers, and light bulbs helps reduce general operating costs over time.
Another reason is for recruiting and retaining employees who care about sustainability. It is now common for employees to start the discussion with their employers about adopting green standards in the workplace. This is used by businesses to attract new talent and keep current employees inspired and motivated. Businesses also support the sustainability efforts of their employees with incentives like giving employees reusable containers to drink water from, discounts on fares for employees who use public transportation, and special parking areas for employees who ride their bikes to work. This helps employees see the positive impact that they are having on the environment through their efforts with the assistance of their employers.
Additionally, tax incentives encourage businesses to go green. If businesses do things like renovations that cut heating, lighting, and cooling costs, improve old water and HVAC heating systems, and purchase hybrid vehicles, they can receive incentives. Many businesses can apply for funding and grants to help with these changes. The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development are two of the organizations that offer grants and loans to businesses. These programs are essential for anyone looking to start a green business, businesses that are working towards becoming more sustainable, and existing green businesses. A 2014 study of 180 companies found that “high sustainability” companies “significantly outperform their counterparts over the long term, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance (Kalish).”
Lastly, consumers are taking more notice of when businesses make an effort to help the environment and adopt green policies. Customers now know about the environmental practices of businesses and the sustainability efforts leave a lasting impression on potential customers, existing customers, and vendors. Going green shows to the customers that they are worried about more than just making a profit. It also shows that businesses are interested in protecting the communities in which they serve.
Who is Going Green
Overall, most people seem to think that the push to go green only comes from concerned citizens and politicians, but that is certainly not the case. Companies are revealing their ambitious plans to run a more sustainable business that works towards a better business and environment. Here are some of the companies who have announced plans for sustainability: Bank of America, Ceres, General Electric, Dupont, Innovest, McDonalds, The Home Depot, Anheuser-Busch, Pratt ; Whitney, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Tesla Motors, Coca-Cola, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Toyota, Dell, Target, Brooks, Honda, Continental Airlines, Tesco, S.C. Johnson, Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, and TJX Companies. There are always more companies who are making efforts to go green, and this does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. In fact, the list is only going to get longer. The Green Power Group was established in August 2000 when 11 US companies, representing 6.5% of the country’s commercial electricity demand, promised to purchase 1,000 megawatts (MW) of green power over 10 years (“Companies going for the green”).
Green Initiatives by Companies
Now that it has been laid out why and who is going green, it is time to talk about the specific initiatives that are being taken by these companies. McDonald’s switched to energy-efficient appliances which cut their energy use by 25% in their business activities. They have also set up green parking lots by reserving them for only hybrid vehicles. They also use considerate ways to get their animal products to limit their impact on destroying animal habitats. Dell is one of the leading manufacturers of computer equipment. They have promoted safe disposal methods of their products by creating an effective and efficient recycling program. They also allow customers to return any computer, printer, or monitor equipment from any company to Dell for free to encourage safe disposal and reduce overall waste.
Google has made some great efforts in going green by reducing their energy usage and supporting green energy projects. Google has constructed the world’s most energy efficient data centers and has installed numerous windmills and solar panels. Bank of America cut its paper requirements by 32%. They also started a recycling program that recycles about 30,000 tons of paper every year. They also offer $3000 dollars cash-back reward to workers who switch to hybrid cars. Telsa Motors manufactures cars that are eco-friendly that do not forfeit the power and speed of their cars. Their electric powered cars are very efficient and can go from 0 to 60 in just 3.9 seconds with a 256 MPG output.
Wal-Mart has made significant advances to implement green initiatives in their supply chain operations. As one of the world’s largest retailers, they surprised everyone when they placed a strict policy to cut off suppliers whose manufacturing, processing, and distribution methods contributed to vast carbon emissions. They plan to have their retail stores utilize 100% renewable energy sources and they have vast recycling practices that are in use. Wal-Mart has invested heavily in its organic business, becoming the world’s largest buyer of organic cotton products (Harnett). Honda has invested heavily into producing fuel-efficient vehicles and are currently seeking ways to develop a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle that will replace gasoline powered ones. They are ranked as one of the most fuel-efficient auto companies in the US. They have promised to cut down its carbon dioxide emissions.
United Airlines has spent more than 16 billion dollars to replace all their airplanes with those that are more fuel-efficient. Since the year 2000, they have managed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 75%. Tesco offers shoppers who return shopping bags savings. The energy powering its stores is from wind power. They have also heavily invested in the use of biodiesel trucks for making deliveries and recycling. Brooks has introduced a completely biodegradable running shoe. This ensures the shoe will only biodegrade when it is in an active enclosed landfill. The biodegrading period for their shoe takes 20 years compared to the conventional shoes that take about 1,000 years.
S.C. Johnson managed to reduce 1.8 million pounds of volatile organic compounds from its Windex products as well as 1.4 million pounds of chloride from Saran Wrap. They have minimized the use of coal to generate power by replacing most of it with natural gas. Pratt & Whitney has cut back 90% of its ingots in the manufacturing of jet engine blades. Hewlett Packard has taken steps to ensure their materials are 100% recyclable. They have also opened e-waste recycling plants across the globe as well as following Dell’s lead by taking back computer equipment of all brands. Target has introduced an eco-clothing line. This clothing line is created with environmentally sound fabric, which reduces the reliance of raw products. They also prioritize on lighting conservation at its shopping centers.
Going green is a concept that has taken off over the last few decades. Businesses are leading the way in innovation towards sustainable business practices. This is a trend that is only going to increase in the coming years. Companies can no longer ignore this issue and must adapt to the changing environment in order to survive. The customers are ever more on the lookout as to what companies are doing in this department. Companies must either stay relevant, or fall behind.


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