Examples of successful sustainability initiatives | hbs online (2023)

The world is changing – that's what the United Nations are predictinga little over a decade, the damage done to the planet by climate change will be irreversible. Social issues also threaten to divide communities and countries, and theCoronavirus-Pandemie (COVID-19)endangers global health. The need to come together and work towards collective change has never been more urgent.

Consumers contribute to causes they care about by "voting" with their dollars. By choosing to buy products and services from brands committed to environmental and social sustainability, consumers can make a significant impact. For example, following the death of George Floyd and the new wave of Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020.Yelp reportsa 7,043 percent increase in support for black-owned businesses on its platform.

This creates a unique opportunity for organizations to align their strategies to reflect their values ​​and to use budget, resources and influence to create positive change.

Rebecca Henderson, a professor at Harvard Business School, tries to debunk the myth that sustainability is not a wise investment for companies. In the online courseSustainable corporate strategyShe explains that the intersection of "doing good" and "doing good" - is calledCreation of shared values- is often very profitable.

"You don't have to leave your valuables at the door when you come to work," says Henderson. "Solving the big problems opens opportunities that can give you a rewarding and prosperous business career while helping to build a just and sustainable world."

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Benefits of a sustainable company

Although often costly, running a sustainable business can pay off in the long run, both financially and environmentally.

search onHarvard Business Reviewshows that sustainable companies generate greater financial gains than their non-sustainable counterparts.

The survey also shows that consumers' focus on buying from sustainable brands is increasing. For example, products with a sustainability statement on their packaging brought in nearly $114 billion in sales in 2019 -- a 29% increase from 2013 -- and products marketed as sustainable grew more than five times faster than those that did were not.

Also onerecent researchThe study, conducted by blockchain-based clean energy company Swytch, found that nearly 70% of employees say their company's strong sustainability program influences their decision to stay with it long-term.

While the implementation of high sustainability goals costs money, a strategy for sustainability can pay off in the long term in the form of product sales and employee retention.

Here are five examples of companies with successful sustainability initiatives to inspire your company's strategy.

Related:5 tips for formulating a winning strategy

5 examples of companies with successful sustainability initiatives

1. Rothys

An example of a company that puts sustainability at the heart of its strategy is Rothy's, a retailer that uses recycled plastic bottles as a raw material to make shoes, handbags and, more recently, face coverings.

“One million bottles of water are sold worldwide every minute”the company claims on its website. "That's why we knit our styles based on models made from recycled materials like plastic water bottles."

Oneyour site, Rothy's describes the process by which used plastic bottles are cut, pressed into pellets and spun into fine, durable yarn before being knitted into shoes, bags and face coverings. The company reports that it has recycled nearly 70 million plastic bottles to date.

Rothy's is also committed to using recycled materials to package products and has partnered with the Envira Amazonia Project to conserve rainforests and offset carbon emissions released during shipping.

Related:3 examples of corporate social responsibility that worked

2. Bank of America

Bank of America takes a top-down approach to sustainability and provides other companies with the means to achieve their sustainability goals.

In 2014, Bank of America launched theCatalytic Finance Initiative, which invested $10 billion in investments that were considered high-risk by many standards, but ultimately worked towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

By investing in typically high-risk sectors such as B. Clean energy startups, Bank of America has effectively reduced the risk of sustainable investing. The success of companies and products funded by the initiative paves the way for increased cash flow for projects that make a positive impact on the planet.

Since 2016, the Catalytic Finance Initiative has comprised 12 partners who support investments in high-risk, high-impact sustainability projects and reinforce the precedent that investing in sustainability pays off.

3. Etsy

Etsy is thefirst major online shopping destinationTo offset 100 percent of the CO2 emissions from shipping.

Etsy is a platform that allows individuals to sell their artworks and creations to the public, resulting in a large number of packages being shipped every day.

To offset the carbon emissions that parcel shipping puts into the environment, Etsy has partnered with renewable energy company 3Degrees to fund verified carbon reduction projects such as protecting forests, sponsoring wind and solar farms and the development of greener methods for manufacturing auto parts.

Etsy's funding of these projects has been well-targeted, helping the company ensure it neutralizes at least the amount of carbon emissions caused by its shipping.

Related:Why is strategic planning important?

4. AstraZeneca

Pharmacy AstraZeneca has placed health at the center of its work, which is why it is funding a corresponding projectincreases the health of Kenyanshelping the environment at the same time made sense for the organization.

AstraZeneca has partnered with Kenyan company Biogas International and the University of Cambridge's Institute for Sustainability to install biogas stoves in rural communities in Kenya. Biogas stoves replaced the wood and coal fires which released harmful CO2 into the environment and caused harmful respiratory problems for the Kenyans who stood over the fires and cooked - namely women and girls.

By helping fund the installation of biogas stoves in these communities, AstraZeneca has stayed true to its value of putting the health of others first. In addition, the company collected data on the harmful effects of CO2 on the airways for future pharmaceutical work.

5. Ben & Jerry's

brand ice creamBen & Jerry´shas made a commitment to climate change and social justice in recent years and has positioned itself as a provider of educational resources for people who want to take action.

"If it's melted, it's ruined"according to a statement on the company's website. "It's true for ice cream and it's true for the planet."

Ben & Jerry's website provides facts about the current state of climate change, how it is disproportionately impacting underserved communities, and a list of ways to combat it.

The company formulates global goals for everyone to work towards, including:

  • Reduction of CO2 emissions by at least 45% by 2030
  • Transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050
  • Stop using charcoal altogether
  • Complete separation from the fossil fuel industry
  • Stop deforestation of ancient rainforests
  • Ensure mitigation and adaptation are supported in developing countries

The company's goal is to use 100% clean energy by 2025, which it will achieve through solar panels, bio-digestion plants that convert emissions into clean energy to power ice factories, and new green freezing technology.

“As a food company, many of the partners in our value chain, including our fair trade suppliers in the Global South, are at real risk from a warming planet,”the company claims on its website. "And since climate change is a risk to the people in our supply chain, it is also a risk to our business."

Ben & Jerry's is also asking the public to support the clean energy movement, read articles about climate change and climate justice, and learn about other brands and organizations fighting for the same cause.

Create a sustainable business strategy

If your organization has not yet defined sustainability goals andformulate a strategyTo achieve them, first improve yoursStrategic thinkingand learn more about your industry's sustainability issues before speaking to your team.

These five organizations can serve as inspiration and proof that it is possible to "do good" while "doing good". They also demonstrate that running a sustainable business can not only benefit your business but the planet as well.

Are you interested in making a difference as a goal-oriented leader? Discover our three weeksSustainable corporate strategyCourse to learn how to create shared value in your organization.

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