[Top 10] 2015 Greenest Companies in America

By Tomas H. Lucero

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."

Photo: sigmaaldrich.com

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.'"

Photo: locationoc.com

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.

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