6 Sustainability Lessons You Can Learn From the Greenest Companies

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / January 21, 2020
solar field with green grass and blue skeis

Greener companies just do better. Sustainable businesses are more profitable than their environmentally unfriendly peers. Consumers are willing to spend more to buy products from businesses that take their obligations as global citizens seriously. Ethically and financially, green is king.

Whether you have been running a business for decades or are just getting started, there’s no better time to go green than now. Shifting to a sustainable business model takes work, though. Figuring out where to begin can be confusing. When in doubt, why not follow the footsteps of others who’ve made the switch successfully?

Here’s how some of the top green companies managed to follow sustainable business practices without sacrificing profits:

1. L’Oréal — Never let waste become the norm.

Named by Newsweek as the most sustainable company in the world in 2017, L’Oréal stands out in an industry known for disposable packaging and questionable ingredient sourcing. The company’s sustainability program, “Sharing Beauty With All,” focuses on helping L’Oréal find ways to make positive social changes and reduce its environmental footprint.

CDP Worldwide, an independent international organization that grades companies on their environmental friendliness, gave L’Oréal an “A” in climate protection, sustainable water management, and deforestation prevention. 

2. The Home Depot — Establish partnerships with people who share your mission.

This hardware giant’s stores may appear to favor felling trees over saving them, but don’t be fooled. The Home Depot is committed to sustainability, as evidenced by its numerous partnerships with environmentalist groups. Its annual corporate responsibility reports’ focus on green business also underscores this. 

The Home Depot’s stores use energy-friendly equipment and provide areas for shoppers to recycle products like batteries and bulbs. In addition, The Home Depot has a Forest Stewardship Council, ensuring the company does business with companies that replace the trees they cut down. 

3. Pela — Don’t be afraid to disrupt the status quo in the name of positive change.

Biodegradable phone case maker Pela has taken on an industry in which waste and cheap plastic are the norm. Pela’s phone cases have so far kept nearly 300,000 pounds of plastic from production lines. That prevents phone cases from entering landfills or bodies of water when they inevitably outlive the phones they house.

Pela offers other zero-waste products, including liquid screen protectors, to further reduce phone-related waste. Even better, it helps create a closed-loop system. The company regularly partners with new environmentalist organizations, including Save the Waves and Surfrider Foundation. 

4. HP — Set lofty goals, and measure your true performance. 

Massive technology companies can make massive improvements with small changes, but HP doesn’t stop at small. The company was one of the first to meet GHG emissions reduction targets. It’s reduced its emissions by 35% since 2015, and it isn’t stopping there.

HP provides public data about its carbon footprint water usage and follows transparent practices to reduce those impacts. Because HP holds itself to such a high standard, it expects its suppliers and partners to set and reach similar goals. HP aligns many of its objectives with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

5. Cisco — Grow your financials as you reduce your environmental impact.

In 2018, Corporate Knights named Cisco as one of the 100 most sustainable corporations in the world at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Cisco made the cut above more than 7,400 competitors on 17 KPIs, including energy usage, carbon footprint, and supplier performance.

In 2017, 80% of Cisco’s energy came from renewable sources. The company reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over a 10-year period, despite growing substantially during that time.

6. Lush — Think outside the box to eliminate costly waste.

Lush prides itself on making “naked” products without unnecessary packaging. The company acknowledges no one can eliminate waste completely. But by stripping away plastic from its bath bombs, solid shampoo bars, and other products, Lush challenges the idea that products need to be encased by unusable materials. 

By taking this same approach to its materials sourcing, supply chain, and water usage, Lush has placed itself at the front of a growing movement in consumer goods. Thanks to its sustainable practices, all the electricity Lush consumes goes back to the energy grid.

Eager to go sustainable, but not sure where to start? Look for opportunities to make small changes, then keep pulling on that string as you grow. Think about how you could build a new arm of your business to reduce your environmental impact while making money in a new vertical. Communicate to your customers about your commitment to the environment, stay accountable to transparent goals, and enjoy the success that comes from being a leader in green growth.

About The Author

Kimberly Zhang

Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.