[Top 10] 2015 Greenest Companies in America
In today’s environment, corporations must go one step further than offering something useful to the public. They must work to become as sustainable and environmentally-responsible as possible. The Earth is in the throes of major climate change and the more companies discover ways to reduce the size of their carbon foot print, the more they contribute to facing down the issue of climate disruption. There are leaders and there are followers in the enterprise to change our relationship to the Earth in order to thrive as a species on the planet. The following ten companies, the “greenest” in America, are leading the way in transforming into ecologically sustainable and carbon-free institutions. Clearly, humanity has a very long way to go before it can declare an end to the climate disruption crisis but we need to start somewhere.
The following list is drawn from “2015 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World Index” created by Corporate Knights.
10. Adobe Systems: “Adobe is the global leader in digital marketing and digital media solutions.”
Photo: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com
Overall place on the global index: 61
In 2014, Newsweek recognized Adobe as the greenest technology company in the world. According to a company video, when Adobe commissions a new building, it makes sure that its business partners—architects, builders and project managers—are green certified. Also when putting a new building, Adobe considers the best possible space for the community, weighing such variables as the proximity of public transportation. When fuel cell technology was created, Adobe adopted the technology as early as 2006. Adobe practices sustainability around four themes or ideas, according to their website. They are: managing business to benefit earth, helping customers support sustainability, great workspaces inspire great work and a culture of conservation.
9. Intel: “[Our mission is to] Utilize the power of Moore's Law to bring smart, connected devices to every person on earth.”
Photo: Dragan Jovanovic/Shutterstock.com
Overall place on the global index: 56
“[We] believe that innovation is key to a sustainable future for our planet,” reads a sentence on Intel’s company website. Intel has ISO 14001 certification to ensure manufacturing sites maintain a comprehensive environmental management system that “clearly defines and tracks global performance to environmental goals and initiatives,” according to their website. The computer chip-maker has various policies that promote sustainability including Design for the Environment principles which strive to minimize the environmental impact of their products at all phases of their life cycle. Another program is Sustainability in Action where they provide funding for employee sustainability projects at the workplace or their communities.
8. Agilent Technologies: “Agilent is a leader in life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets.”
Photo: Chris Suderman/Flickr
Overall place on the global index: 53
Agilent’s sustainability strategy encompasses environmental, social, health and safety, product, supplier and economic components. Obviously, their policies transcend the environmental question. For example, in their relationship with suppliers Agilent informs them of their environmental and social responsibility expectations and requires them to adopt management practices in alignment. Like Intel, this company is certified ISO 14001. Agilent’s community relations policy includes “[contributing] through foundation and company grants, employee volunteerism, public policy and community partnerships in the areas of science education, and workplace giving campaigns,” according to their website.
7. General Mills (GM): “Nourishing lives is our mission.”
Photo: Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.com
Overall place on the global index: 49
General Mills attempts to reduce their carbon footprint by focusing their efforts on areas where they can have the greatest impact; namely, agriculture. Furthermore, they work to reduce their consumption of natural resources across the world and, finally, focus on “sustainably sourcing” the raw materials they use in their products. Based on their 2014 Global Responsibility Report, in 2013, GM made its most significant improvements in the areas of greenhouse gas emission reduction, transportation fuel usage and packaging. Also based on the same report, GM is on track, or has achieved, its fiscal 2015 sustainability goals except in water, where they have lost 22 percentage points from their goal due to the acquisition of Yoplait International—a water intensive product producer.
6. Ecolab: "Our vision keeps us focused on what we strive for – to be the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services; providing and protecting what is vital: clean water, safe food, abundant energy and healthy environments."
Photo: Earl Leatherberry/Flickr
Overall place on the global index: 47
Ecolab contributes to the improved sustainability of the planet through its own company policies but also through the very work that they do. The bar for sustainability practices in business organizations is higher than ever all over the globe and businesses hire Ecolab to help them reach those standards. Some of the ways it does this is by advising clients on how to reduce their water use, harness green energy technology and reducing energy use by increasing efficiency. According to a letter written by the Chairman of the Board and CEO, in 2013, “Ecolab achieved a 22.4 percent intensity reduction in U.S. [greenhouse gas] emissions from our 2006 baseline, exceeding our stated goal by 2012. We also reduced waste by 20 percent between 2009 and 2012, surpassing a target of 18 percent.” In the next paragraph he writes, “In 2014, we will set the bar higher for ourselves. We will launch more aggressive global sustainability targets, including 25 percent reductions in effluent discharge and waste, 20 percent reduction in water use and 10 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2017.
5. Sigma-Aldrich: "As a company founded on the principles of improving the quality of life through science, being committed to Global Citizenship is in our DNA."
Overall place on the global index: 38
Sigma-Aldrich has a global environmental management system at all of its facilities which provide it with “invaluable data that helps guide our decisions and investments to reach the next level of sustainability,” according to their website. The corporation has ambitious sustainability goals in all sorts of indexes, including waste, emissions, water and energy efficiency and supply chain transparency. It has achieved its water goal of 30 percent “intensity improvement” and is at least halfway in the other indicators. It’s 80 percent fulfilled in their 20 percent “intensity improvement” regarding waste. In 2013, their waste total, 13,347 tons, nearly matched its recycling totals of 12,298 tons.
4. Coca-Cola Enterprises: "Combining profit and purpose."
Photo: Katherine Welles/Shutterstock.com
Overall place on the global index: 26
Coca-Cola is not timid in its sustainability goals: “We’re making a bold commitment: by 2020, the drink in your hand will be one third less than it was in 2007,” reads their website. It plans to achieve this by “purchasing sustainable ingredients and considering how our packaging is made, how our drinks are bottled, the way they are transported, how they are chilled and the way they are disposed of after our consumers have enjoyed them” according to their website. Its goals, or “targets,” include growing their business but reducing their “absolute carbon footprint of business operations by 15 percent by 2020” and sourcing 35 percent of “manufacturing energy from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2020.
3. Johnson & Johnson: "We view Citizenship & Sustainability as intrinsic components of our aspiration, that by caring one person at a time, we will help people live longer, healthier, happier lives."
Photo: Gil C/Shutterstock.com
Overall place on the global index: 18
Johnson & Johnson is the largest health care company in the world. The company affects billions of lives each day in thousands of places around the globe. Its sustainability policies, therefore, impact the world and environmental problems in an important way. 95 percent of their manufacturing and research and development (R&D) facilities around the world are certified to the International Standards Organization’s (ISO) environmental management system. Achievement of certification ISO 14001 is required for all manufacturing and R&D sites. Company acquisitions have 36 months to comply. Since 2005, the company has eliminated approximately 3,500 tones of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) from packaging. The packaging material is now used sparingly. To conclude, it is Johnson & Johnson policy that “all new construction projects or renovations costing USD $5 million or more must be certified to the stringent U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standard” according to their website.
2. Allergan: "At Allergan, corporate social responsibility is more than just a 'good idea.'"
Overall place on the global index: 2
According to their website, “[Allergan] employees around the world are encouraged to ‘think local,’ to develop innovative programs that respond to the needs and concerns of local communities as well as continuing our broader efforts to create a greener, healthier environment.” Also according to their website, “Allergan is one of only a handful of pharmaceutical companies to be a part of the United Nations Global Compact, which sets important guidelines in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption.” Since 1985, Allergan has been showered with awards and recognitions related to conservation and good stewardship of the environment. In 2015, just to name a couple, Allergan continues to be on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and is ranked number 2 overall worldwide in Forbes’ and Corporate Knights’ green rankings.
1. Biogen Idec: "Our commitment to corporate citizenship and environmental sustainability reflects the best interests of our patients, our stakeholders and the communities we serve."
Photo: JC Cannistraro/Flickr
Overall place on the global index: 1
Biogen strives to have a positive impact on the lives of patients, employees and communities where it operates. But it also seeks to minimize its operations’ impact on the environment. This strategic approach to environmental sustainability has earned them recognition from global sustainability ranking and rating organizations. It’s number 1 in America and in the world. In 2014, they were designated as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index World (DJSI World) biotechnology leader and named to DJSI North America for the fifth consecutive year. According to Jorg Thommes, Vice President of Operations for Technology and Innovation, speaking in a company video, the modern corporation must behave as a corporate citizen, which means caring deeply for the people they serve, their workers and the world that they do their business in. “All of our initiatives have to make business sense and at the same time help us fulfill our role as corporate citizens,” he says. Biogen organizes its goal setting around the areas of waste, water, energy and an overall carbon dioxide footprint.
Related Story: Reasons why sustainability is a good business decision
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.