Companies all over the globe are working to become lodged in the public consciousness as
Eco-Leaders—the white hats who care about the environment and produce sustainable, green products in an environmentally sound way. For those that are serious—and have made green part of their corporate culture—profit isn’t the only motivation. They look at their focus on sustainability as the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit.
What makes a company an Eco-Leader?
It’s complicated. Not only is the sustainability bar high, but it is fragmented all over a map that includes where the materials come from, how they are manufactured and where they go once the product has served its life—those embodied energy costs. Other factors include how far the product is transported and how it functions. Then there are aesthetics. No matter how sustainable, few end users want ugly. And finally, there is education. How does a company help consumers know what they want and need in terms of green, sustainable products—without making them feel like they are being lectured?.
To complicate the idea of Eco-Leaders even further, there are research companies using different criteria with which to judge products and processes. For example, GlobeScan and SustainAbility just issued their third annual survey of the 2013 sustainability leaders. Approximately 1,170 sustainability experts from 73 companies completed the latest survey online from February 20 to March 14, 2013. Respondents were among “the most influential thought leaders in the sustainability arena from over 60 countries,[asked] to explore the biggest sustainability challenges,” and included leading sustainable development experts and practitioners from five sectors: corporate, government, NGOs, institutional (e.g., academics) and service (e.g., consultants, media). The surveys can be downloaded from the GlobeScan or SustainAbility Web sites. In case you’re wondering, a company called Unilever took the first position in this latest survey.
Others who rank sustainability are the Newsweek Green Rankings, and Corporate Knights’ Global 100.
The fourth Newsweek Green Rankings, published in October 2012, lauded Walmart, number 41 in its ranking, for reducing waste and buying renewable energy (some stores power with PV solar and have remodeled to use natural daylighting for illumination). It is also using its clout to pressure suppliers to be more environmentally conscious, as well as economical. The Newsweek survey ranked the top 500 companies. The Global 100 list has been produced since 2005; 10 of the 100 are U.S. companies.
Below, we’ll introduce you to six companies from the building industry and beyond that are really making a positive difference.