Planet Over Profit: Corporations Making Changes for the Environment
Corporations are part of every aspect of our lives. They release mass amounts of carbon dioxide emissions. 100 energy companies contribute to 71% of all industrial emissions. The top 15 American food companies contribute 630 million metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.
Individual actions are important, but we still need to make effective change on a larger scale. Permanent change will come once companies become more environmentally responsible.
Business For Good Is Good Business
There’s a misconception that going green means losing out on profit, but that’s simply not the case. According to an international survey, 80% of people better respect businesses that adopt green practices. Eco-friendly business is in high demand and consumers are more likely to cast their dollar vote for companies that align with their views on climate. Also, going green allows companies to receive extra tax credits, improved efficiency, foster a more healthy workplace, and save operational costs associated with lighting, heat, and plumbing.
A solution to the overemphasis on profit over environmental impact is to adjust the way we define profit. GDP (gross domestic product) is the current widely used measurement of economic success. GDP doesn’t factor in the relationship between the environment and our economy. GEP (gross ecosystem product) takes into account our environmental assets and how economically valuable they are to humans. By prioritizing GEP as much as GDP, nations and industry leaders will be better equipped to make decisions based on both their environmental and economic impacts, valuing our planet equally with profit.
Some companies have already taken steps in the right direction, leading the way in more sustainable business.
This rapidly growing corporation has consistently been highlighted as a leader in sustainability. Unilever produces and distributes products that make a difference in people’s daily lives and in protecting our planet. Some of their products include teas, shampoos, and household essentials, made by both well-known companies and Unilever has quickly become one of the most successful worldwide manufacturers, selling to 190 countries and used by more than 2.5 billion people worldwide.
With such a global presence it is easy to believe that it may be more difficult for Unilever to maintain sustainable business practices. By placing environmental sustainability at the center of their business model Unilever has ensured that its operations are not a detriment to the environment. In 2020 the corporation set a goal to improve the health of 1 billion people, buy 100% of agricultural products from sustainable sources and halve their environmental impact. Unilever has exceeded those goals, bettering the health and hygiene of over 1.3 billion people and switching to 100% renewable energy. To achieve these goals the company has adopted a number of practices, centered in the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, for example; championing sustainable agriculture, assisting in recycling more, and adopting eco-efficient manufacturing and distribution practices.
The international success of Unilever proves that corporations do not have to sacrifice their profit in order to make eco-friendly products. Sustainability and success often go hand in hand, as Unilever has proven. By supporting corporations such as this the individual is better able to contribute to an environmentally moral company, advocating for other businesses to adopt similar approaches.
Samsung is dominating the green-tech industry, providing an example to other companies that expanding technology does not have to come at the expense of our planet. It is easy for devices to end up in landfills, as the majority of cell-phone users are adamant about staying up-to-date with new technologies. Samsung has recognized this problem and prioritized landfill diversion, recycling over 381,667 tons of electronic waste in 2016 alone. In order to ensure the success of these recycling programs Samsung has worked to ensure its devices are more recycling compatible by employing an eco-design process and eco-rating system to evaluate the sustainability of its technology throughout its life cycle.
Samsung is also a major supporter of circular economies. The corporation ensures that a substantial amount of the plastic used in its devices come from recycled plastics. By participating in the circular economy of plastic Samsung decreases its need for crude oil and can decrease carbon emissions by 97 percent. The Samsung Galaxy S8 travel adapter was made from only 20% recycled materials and was still estimated to have the same environmental impact as planting over 13,000 trees.
Another company that has made great progress in becoming more sustainable is Target. Target has expanded the products available in its stores and online to be more environmentally friendly, committing to only sell sustainably farmed cotton products by 2022, which has helped save farmers over 12 billion gallons of water over the past year. Target is also working to foster a more healthy and sustainable shopping experience for its guests by labeling product packaging to help consumers easily spot products that are better for their homes and the environment.
Target has also invested in partnerships with several sustainability organizations, such as its $2 million dollar commitment to The Recycling Partnership, an organization that motivates communities to be more proactive in their recycling practices and advocates for a circular economy. Target is also a member of New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with UN Environment, which aims to create a circular economy where plastic never becomes waste.
These companies and the organizations that support them are spearheading the green movement in corporate America. As a consumer, it is important to look into the sustainability practices employed by the companies you support. It is also important to not feel discouraged if your individual actions seem futile in the face of climate change. We, individuals and corporations alike, need to work together to fight for the betterment of our planet.