And the choice to do so is often based on hard-headed business decisions rather than social responsibility.
Many executives believe they will soon face a “carbon-constrained” economy in which greenhouse-gas emissions are taxed, capped or otherwise regulated. According to Andrew J. Hoffman, a professor of sustainable business at the University of Michigan, “It’s not philanthropy; it’s a business motivation, and that’s the way it ought to be.”
Becoming carbon neutral means companies must do two things:
For Siemens, the key to achieving its goals will be investing in new energy-efficient manufacturing technologies, like motors and pumps, in its 300 worldwide factories.
Recycling is also a significant part of the plan. Dell recently announced that its packaging will now be made of wheat straw, a byproduct of wheat harvesting. According to Dell’s vice chairman of operations Jeff Clarke, the wheat straw packaging uses 40% less energy. It also uses 90% less water, and costs less to produce than traditional packaging.
‘It’s not philanthropy; it’s a business motivation, and that’s the way it ought to be.” – Andrew J. Hoffman, Professor of Sustainable Business, University of Michigan
In addition, Dell recently started a program using scraps of carbon fiber in both their business and gaming computers. Clarke stated that Dell is also using information technology—like big data and analytics—to reduce energy consumption at each of its 27 facilities.
Oil giant BP has pledged to reduce its internal greenhouse-gas emissions by up to a million tons a year at a cost of $350 million. It also invests heavily in wind, solar, and other zero-emissions technologies, and says it expects to spend $8 billion on its alternative-energy businesses over the next decade.
“First of all, we see this as a business opportunity,” says Bill Gerwing, BP’s director of environmental policy. “Climate change is real… And we believe that doing nothing is not a realistic option.”
Let’s take a look at a few more international companies working hard to reduce their carbon footprint:
Coca-Cola is striving to reduce its carbon footprint by 25% by 2020. In order to achieve this goal, the company has changed its packaging formats, delivery fleets, refrigeration equipment and ingredient sourcing.
Coca-Cola identified that its global fleet of trucks emitted about 3.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2014. As a result, the company is gradually adding delivery trucks that are powered by a mixture of alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, natural gas and diesel/electric.
International Beer and soft drink manufacturer SAB Miller is now using a technique known as dry de-husking (DDH). This new method requires less energy during the brewing process.
Thomas Brewer (yes, that’s really his name), Engineering Manager at SAB Miller, explained:
“By using DDH … we have made a significant improvement in energy efficiency and emissions, with no impact on our traditional brewing techniques or the quality and taste of the beers that we brew there.”
Ford Motor Company has developed an EcoBoost engine which improves fuel efficiencies by 20%. The automaker also offers six electrified vehicle (EV) options in the U.S. and Canada. And it’s working with Sun Power and the Sierra Club to offer solar systems to EV customers for emission-free driving.
Ford has also teamed up with the Wind Energy Corporation. Together they are installing wind sail and solar systems at its dealership sites to power buildings and electrical charging stations. In addition, Ford has successfully reduced its global water use by 61%.
Nestlé has ranked first in a number of sustainability indexes and scorecards such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, where it has been the leading food products company.
As of 2014, Nestlé had phased out 92% of its industrial refrigerants, replacing them with their more environmentally friendly natural counterparts. At the company’s Mexican factories, 85% of the electricity being used is sourced from one of the largest wind farms in the country. In addition, Nestlé has started using spent coffee grounds as a supplemental fuel in more than 22 of its factories worldwide.
Even investors are getting in on the act. The Carbon Disclosure Project (now known simply as CDP) is a non-profit coalition of 822 institutional investors with assets of $95 trillion. CDP asks corporations to provide information about their carbon outputs and their plans for reducing their carbon footprint.
Investors then use the information to gauge how well a company is likely to perform in a carbon-constrained economy. As of year end 2016, more than 3,000 companies were listed.
The following video clip explains the CDP and its global index. (To download a copy of the CDP’s most recently published corporate “A List,” click here.)
As you can see, many corporations now seem to have turned a corner concerning their carbon footprint, recognizing not only the business risk of climate change, but the human risk as well.
Dave Hamilton, former director of the Sierra Club Global Warming and Energy Program, puts it this way:
“We are looking at a time when corporate executives are waking up in the middle of the night and asking, ‘What is life going to be like for my children?'”