We've made it into the new year – a new year with new resolutions, goals, and planned out accomplishments, but the same looming issues in sustainability, the climate crisis, pollution, and many other topics in the field of environment. We as a society have the responsibility to keep pushing forward towards a net-zero atmosphere and climate, allowing future generations to experience the beauty that is our planet.
Why should companies lean more towards becoming sustainable? The answer is simple – impact. All businesses have a significant impact on the earth, corporations, enterprises, small businesses or large companies take advantage of given resources on a wider scale, for a long period. Many companies (depending on the subject of business) have the starting points of switching to recyclable materials, reducing energy consumption, integrating remote working environments, and partnering with charities or organizations that have a direct relation with the environment.
Before going into the goals of specific businesses and if they are achievable based on the current progress, first we have to look at what makes a company sustainable. And, how that company plans on using its given resources to develop a deep seeded plan.
What Makes A Company Sustainable?
Sustainable means being maintained and able to function at a certain level for a long period of time, allowing for significant progress to be made. The purpose is to lead the company in the direction of environmental morality – positioning their impacts with the focus on the environment, communities, individuals, and the overall stability of the Earth at the forefront. A company’s main value is monetary, leaving everything else to be second, third or even last. Sustainable companies redirect and realign their agendas to focus merely on the impact, effect and outcome their company has on the growing environmental issues. Ultimately developing ways or a plan to help whatever aspect they believe to be vital.
Transparent notions such as certifications, audits, partnerships; offering “eco-friendly” products or materials, or other conclusive options are evidence of a company being sustainable. A few distinctions within certifications are as follows – Certified B Corporations, Benefit Corporations, businesses with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and mission-driven companies. Any company can be pursued to become a Certified B Corporation, which is the main slated certification that will be displayed on the company’s website or legal outline. This certification means the company has registered with B Lab and undergone a strict interview and application processes – concluding that the company is making heavy strides to create solutions to global problems like wealth inequality, climate change, social unrest, and corporate transparency.
A few examples of sustainable businesses are – Patagonia, Yeti, Preserve, MUD Jeans, Eco-Lab, and Lundberg Family Farms. Whether large or small businesses, food distributors, clothing brands, or major tech corporations, the sustainable label can be put on any level of production or genre.
Now that we have a good understanding of the foundation of what a sustainable company is and how they are publicized as one, we can go into the specifics.
The Growing Process
Many companies that dedicate their production to environmental progress, create and develop a sustainability plan that consists of end goals, ways to meet and exceed the goals, the time frame in which to complete the goals, and the resources that can be used to achieve the total goals.
Pushing the goals to the forefront is the main purpose of a company’s plan. The companies we’ll see in-depth and reference will be – Yeti and Lundberg Family Farms – businesses within different departments and production styles but both set towards one end goal.
For example, Yeti has increased its emissions by 32% from 2020 to 2021 due to its new climate strategies being conducted and tested. They have stated that they are fighting to reduce their total emissions by 27% by working in partnership with the Outdoor Industry Association Climate Action Corps to conduct energy and emission audits. Yeti did not make significant progress towards their total goal but, they gave a detailed description of acknowledgment and outlined how they will combat their mishaps.
From the fields to the facilities, Lundberg Family Farm’s purpose is to restore the environment to its rightful healthy state while bringing top quality food to consumers. The LFF 2021 Sustainability Report breaks down their 11 category plan and details the progress they have made along with the forward movements they are taking. A great example of one of their continuous goals is to maintain their Energy Star certification and generate 100K in energy savings. In their 2021 year, they increased their administration performance by 77% earning them that certification for the third year in a row. Along with participating in the Strategic Energy Management (SEM) Program, their air leak program helped generate 4K in energy savings.
The growing progress for companies leading into the future decades seems very promising to say the least. With new found ways of innovation and programs that are made available, the response and conclusions to environmental issues can be handled faster than before. With more and more companies transforming into sustainable ones, the domino effect of conservation has taken off.
Progressing Towards the End Goals: Are They Realistic?
Companies come forward with a plan that they believe to be achievable, but in turn, may not be realistic when looking at the details. Many factors go into whether or not a plan can be achieved or not – looking at manufacturing, production, energy usage, transportation emissions, production materials, and many others. All of these factors calculated together give a strong outlook on whether or not that company will reach its end goals by their slated end time.
Yeti for instance plans on reducing their Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50% and their Scope 3 by 27% by 2030; along with having all of their U.S. based facilities running off of 100% renewable energy by 2022. As of the 2021 fiscal year, about 68% of the energy used in their U.S. facilities was renewable, but now going into the year 2023, their goal was not met. From the previously stated 32% increase in their Scope 3, they have to pick up the pace on reducing those emissions by an additional 27% in the next 6 years – not saying it’s not achievable but there needs to be a significant push to meet that criteria.
Another quick stat is Yeti wants to have a fully zero waste landfill by 2030 – with 97% diversion rate in 2021, this goal is more than likely to be met by 2030 (as long as it progresses at a stable rate).
An estimated 21% to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the world’s food system. In 2021, LFF reached their end goal of 95% facility waste and 99.7% company waste diverted from landfills. The LFF report states the goals they have reached, along with the work they have done to complete those goals, but they failed to incorporate their total goals with end times – so it's difficult to say whether or not they are realistic. By going off of their already achieved statistics, it's safe to say they are moving in a progressive direction.
Society’s Support And Help
Now that we know a few growing statistics on how companies are progressing, the question remains – how can society help? Well, many sustainable companies are manufacturers with a consumer base that is continuously grown upon. By purchasing renewable, recyclable, and alternative products sourced by these companies, it can be associated as a strong step. Also, follow the conservation work they do, how they treat their employees and customers, and their overall message towards the community – researching and becoming part of the conversation will help knowledge and exposure grow. Talking about these new alternative companies and their products to friends, families, partners or even the work family can help with publicity and be an indirect support extension.
What To Look For
Whether looking for organic food options, new hemp fabric clothing, alternatives to the regular plastic toothbrush, or choosing green cleaning supplies, looking to see if the company is sustainable is the first step. When looking into new company’s, research becomes your best friend. Here are a few key points to look out for when searching for a sustainable company –
Look for the Certified B status, this will give peace of mind knowing they went through the previously stated extensive evaluation process.
Research their efforts and the partnerships they prioritize. Many companies “green-wash” their consumers into thinking they are sustainable or eco-friendly, by displaying appealing statistics or products, but not living up to their promises.
Read their Sustainability Report (if they have one published). This will give a better breakdown of where their efforts, time, labor, hours and money are going to and how the company is really impacting the planet.
Check if the company is producing ethically sourced materials and packaging, practicing environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, if they offer carbon reduced shipping options, and read what the recycling process for their created and used products is.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to read reviews, or even reach out to someone in the facility. Knowing the real life experiences can bring a more realistic and relatable side to the company and ultimately sway whether to engage in that particular company or not.
All That Encompasses Sustainability
The word sustainability means for an item, concept, or overall entity to continue and be maintained at a stable and healthy level/rate. When discussing sustainability within the topic of the environment, we’re talking about the overall health of all things climate, atmosphere, land, ocean, and society based issues. By working towards a stable environmental and sociological space, the planet will thank us. It encompasses so many topics and subtopics that it can be a bit overwhelming at first to get educated on – but there are wonderful resources for society to become enthralled with.
Whether that’s a new clothing company to try out, or a new restaurant that grows all their food locally and ethically, or investing in solar panels for a house or business space – all of these ways lead to a greater future, for future generations.
Yeti and Lundberg Family Farms are working towards greater sustainability within their production, manufacturing, facilities, and the community.
Education is the first step in becoming more aware and well versed in the topic of sustainability. Becoming familiar with sustainable companies and reading their annual reports will definitely help broaden your knowledge!
Companies such as: Preserve, MUD Jeans, Yeti, Nature’s Path, and Kotn provide ethically sourced alternative household products, clothing, and food supplies. By purchasing from companies such as these, will help their mission and the planet!
Start small – sustainability is a wide spectrum of topics, by doing your part with small everyday things like conserving water and electricity, or purchasing from organic/ conservational brands, or even carpooling to work will add up to the larger concept of involvement.