A little over a decade ago, when the world was recovering from a global recession and climate change seemed like a far-off problem, big companies were more interested in cutting costs than doing what they could to help save the planet.
But today, with consumers taking more of an interest in living a greener lifestyle, and environmental disasters looming on the horizon, many of these same companies are taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions and embrace sustainability.
Today, we'll look at 17 big businesses that are going green in 2022 and what steps they are taking to reduce their environmental impact.
Some of these multinationals are not traditionally considered green companies, and many still have a long way to go in order to be considered environmentally sustainable. Nevertheless, they have all implemented some green initiatives which do offer some hope for the future.
In a world where fast fashion is a major problem, Patagonia is one big name brand that stands out.
Like many eco-friendly clothing companies, Patagonia is making an effort to follow more environmentally friendly practices and recently announced it was eliminating nylon from many of its products.
Nylon is made with petro-chemicals and nitrogen fertilizer, which means it's both non-renewable and polluting to produce. As a result Patagonia now makes most of its clothes out of fibers like organic cotton or recycled polyester. They now use recycled materials in over 60% of their fabrics.
Patagonia makes a great eco-friendly backpack too, which came out recommended in our tests.
One interesting company that is working to reduce environmental impact and cut down on waste is Pela Case.
This company has created a fantastic eco-friendly phone case made out of organic, compostable materials like tree rubber and food-grade plastic. When you're done with the case, it will biodegrade in as little as six months, instead of sitting in a landfill for decades.
The company is working to ensure that their products will be composted when they break down, instead of piling up in landfills and potentially emitting methane gas into the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, IKEA's products got a bad rap in the past for being just flat-packed pieces of wood that consumers had to assemble themselves. In fact, IKEA is so much more than that now.
The company has made strides toward becoming an eco-friendly furniture brand, by replacing plastics with sustainable materials and reducing packaging to cut down on waste. You can also donate your old IKEA furniture to make new pieces instead of throwing them away.
The coffee giant has plans to replace their disposable coffee cups with compostable ones and is also aiming to provide a discount on customers' drinks if they bring their own reusable mug. Starbucks also recently announced a new vegan plant-based protein smoothie made from almond milk, which will be available in several locations across the US.
In addition, the company is looking to cut down on water usage by 25% in their restaurants across the US by 2025 through a variety of initiatives including improved irrigation, efficient dishwashing, and reduced steam usage in their kitchens.
Starbucks also plans to reduce the amount of sugar they use in certain beverages over time, which will help reduce its environmental footprint even further.
GM recently announced plans to sell a new electric car in China called the Baojun E100 that will get over 120 miles per charge.
The company is also working with auto parts supplier LG Chem to launch an all-electric car in the US and expand its electric vehicle range further. GM estimates that their electric cars could reduce oil consumption by as much as 2.5 million barrels a day, which would have a very significant impact on the environment.
General Motors is also working to reduce water usage in their manufacturing plants and improve recycling practices at their facilities. They are also looking for ways to reduce the energy used during steel production through better insulation and reducing waste.
As part of its effort to reduce waste and become more sustainable, Apple recently unveiled several new products made from 100% recycled aluminum, including the iPhone 12, MacBook Air, Apple Watch, Mac mini, and all iPad devices.
Apple has also vowed to reduce its carbon footprint by using green energy for all of its data centers by early next year. They recently announced they are now carbon neutral.
In an effort to improve community health and reduce carbon emissions for its drivers, Ford has opened several electric car-charging stations in New York City. The stations are free, and they're located in convenient areas like grocery stores and near public transportation hubs.
Ford is also taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of its manufacturing process by reducing toxic chemicals in paint and cutting water usage in half at several facilities.
Finally, Ford has recently partnered with organizations like the National Park Foundation to take older vehicles off the road and put them toward a greener alternative like electric or fuel-efficient vehicles.
When I was asked to compile a list of sustainable companies, Amazon was not a name that immediately came to mind. It's true that much of their business model is not that of an eco-friendly business. But in some ways, they are doing some good as well.
They recently announced plans to switch to renewable energy for their global data centers (this is already the case for those in Europe and North America). Amazon has also worked with solar panel company SolarCity to install rooftop solar panels on top of their US distribution facilities.
Amazon has also pledged to reduce emissions, cut down on waste and operate more sustainably through a combination of green initiatives at their warehouses and new products.
McDonald's unveiled plans to eliminate deforestation from their ingredients through a combination of beef and soy purchasing practices in order to reduce suppliers' dependence on clearing tropical forests for cattle ranching. The company is also phasing out the use of antibiotics in chicken raised for McNuggets, which urges suppliers to adopt more responsible practices.
McDonald's is also working with their suppliers to ensure that fish are caught sustainably through initiatives like fish-farming development and reducing bycatch of other marine animals through more selective fishing practices. This ensures that the fish that end up on customers' plates are healthy and don't pose a threat to ecosystems.
One of the biggest companies in the world is taking steps to reduce its environmental impact as well. Procter & Gamble recently closed an outdated plant and will be transitioning to more eco-friendly packaging for many of its products. P&G is also installing solar panels on the roofs of some of their US facilities and improving the energy efficiency of others.
As part of a new environmental initiative, P&G is encouraging customers to recycle used bottles and refill them with eco-friendly household cleaners and other items rather than throwing the bottles away and buying new ones. This initiative reduces waste and helps to extend the life of products that might otherwise be thrown out after just one use.
Google recently revealed that its data centers are now powered by more renewable energy than ever before. The company is also working with Duke Energy to build a wind farm in North Carolina, which will provide enough power for 50,000 homes once it becomes fully operational.
In addition, Google has reportedly committed more than $2 billion towards clean technology investments and purchases since 2010. The company canceled plans to invest over $200 million in a wind farm in Kenya to power one of their facilities there. However, they have purchased a variety of renewable energy projects in the US, Chile, and Sweden.
The shipping company has a goal for their vehicles to operate on alternative fuels and they have already purchased more than 40,000 hybrid vehicles.
In addition, UPS plans to expand its alternative fuel fleet so that it will become the world's largest fleet of electric vehicles. They also have a biodiesel fueling station at their US headquarters that is used by employees as well as outside contractors.
In addition, UPS has been expanding its use of renewable energy in recent years and now purchases up to 36% of the total electricity consumed at their US facilities from sources like wind turbines and solar power.
This bank is one of many financial institutions that are trying to make an impact on climate change by putting a price on its emissions.
By doing so, the banks hope to incentivize clients and business partners to make changes that will reduce their own environmental impact, while not costing the banks money.
The technology company is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to being environmentally friendly. Bloomberg's headquarters are LEED-certified, which means they have high energy efficiency standards while maintaining a healthy indoor environment for employees.
Additionally, Bloomberg has recently invested in OnFlo, a company that makes software to help commercial and industrial buildings reduce their energy usage.
This electric car company has made huge strides in reducing its environmental impact, not only by producing an electric vehicle but also by making it very efficient. For instance, the Tesla Roadster has a range of 245 miles on a single charge while burning no petroleum along the way.
On a more general note, Tesla's Gigafactory in Nevada is powered completely by solar energy and the company has recently unveiled plans for a new type of power grid that can use batteries to store renewable energy locally as well as move it across long distances.
The largest retailer in the world is making changes to make it more sustainable. Walmart is reducing packaging and energy consumption, as well as increasing the number of products they sell that are made from recycled materials.
The company also recently announced a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 20% in their own operations while making plans to increase the amount of renewable energy they use by 500%.
One of the biggest businesses that have recently made changes to become more environmentally friendly is Pepsi. The company has pledged to reduce its packaging and sell drinks with less plastic; for example, 200 ml and 300 ml bottles will now be available to consumers in place of 1-liter sizes. Pepsi is also reducing the size of their cans and plastic wrap around their snacks so that less waste is generated overall.
In addition, the company has said it will be focusing on energy conservation at all three facilities it operates in India before 2022. The three locations will be working to balance water usage, conserve energy and reduce gas emissions through a variety of initiatives.
Well, it means different things for different industries. For manufacturers of materials-intensive products like cars and home appliances, going green may mean introducing more energy-efficient appliances to the market.
Here are some green business practices that might distinguish the more environmentally friendly companies from those that aren't.
A study by ClimateWorks Australia found that if all large companies cut their energy use, they'd increase their profits by 2-10%. They could also reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 5%, which is not insignificant when you consider that emissions must start to fall soon if we are to avoid a catastrophic increase in global temperatures.
Companies like Google and Apple have already cut their energy use by as much as 40%. Microsoft plans on becoming carbon negative by 2030.
Environmental innovation efforts will save green companies money, and it's obviously vital for the fight against climate change too.
Cutting energy use saves money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but there's also a lot of room for improvement in terms of how efficiently the companies consume energy.
Apple has reduced its energy usage by as much as 67% since 2001, which is impressive because they produce so many devices every year.
Many companies are looking at how they can sell more products that have a lower environmental impact. Eco-friendly products are popular with consumers, and they can have long-term cost savings too.
A truly green business will look to make the manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and also the products themselves more sustainable. This could be done by green initiatives such as producing energy onsite, using recycled materials, or reducing the amount of packaging used.
For companies that deal with agriculture, going green can mean shifting their practices to be more sustainable.
For food producers, that might mean switching to organic farming or introducing hydroponics into cattle feedlots.
For shipping companies, that might mean improving the efficiency of their fleets, or looking into biofuels.
Companies like HP and Verizon are working to ensure they source raw materials in a way that doesn't endanger wildlife or ecosystems. Many major brands have stopped using illegally sourced wood, for example.
For companies with international supply chains, going green is about reducing the number of natural resources that they use.
For example, HP has drastically reduced its paper use by using digital documents instead of printed ones, and Dell has recently announced that it will no longer ship optical drives with any laptops moving forward.
For companies like Google and Starbucks, going green is about implementing as many sustainable initiatives as possible.
These include installing solar panels on office buildings, switching to LED lighting, and composting food waste.
Coffee supply chains are particularly interesting because it's estimated that at least 20% of the price you pay for coffee goes towards some aspect of the supply chain that is involved with environmental sustainability, including paying farmers a living wage.
Going green can also mean thinking about the products themselves. For example, Pepsi is using significantly less plastic in its bottles, while even Coca-Cola has announced that it will be switching to 100% recycled plastic.
They're also using plant-based materials instead of petroleum for their fountain cups and containers, which reduces their cost and provides greater insulation for their drinks.
Last but not least, many companies are working on reducing how much waste is produced at their facilities.
For example, HP has reduced the amount of e-waste it produces by implementing its own recycling program. It is now reusing components instead of trashing them. They've also started using more recyclable materials in their printers.
Many people, when they think of big companies going green, think of it as a way for companies to make more money.
In some cases this is true - an eco-friendly company can attract more customers who are willing to pay more for their green products. But often even the most environmentally conscious companies will find that producing sustainable products or reducing consumption costs them money in the short term.
So why do companies go green, if not to make more money? Because in the long term sustainable business practices lead to lower costs and higher profits.
Surprisingly, it's not always easy for consumers to know which companies are truly green.
Sometimes a company will look like they're going green when in reality what they're doing is less environmentally friendly than before. For example, some companies will make changes that make the product seem more sustainable but don't actually reduce their carbon footprint.
Other greenwashing techniques are more willful. For example, a company may claim to be green when in reality they're doing nothing of the sort - or at least not very much.
One way to help verify that a company is truly going green is by looking for certifications from third-party organizations like Green Seal or LEED International.
As you can see, some of the biggest companies in the world are taking major steps to reduce their environmental impact.
It will be interesting to see if they are able to meet many of their goals and how much of an effect these efforts have on the environment over time.
Of course, there are still plenty of companies that haven't gone green yet, so it will be interesting to see whether more global and local businesses in other industries start following suit.
Do you think that these companies are making the right choices when it comes to environmental conservation? Are there any other corporations that should get into this trend? Perhaps you know a company or business that are going green in your local area? Let us know.