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Leading from the Top: 5 Large Organizations Pioneering Sustainability

While it’s not always the big players that drive global paradigm shifts, in the times we live in, it is hard not to notice that it’s the large global organizations that have the biggest impact. Industry leaders are industry leaders for a reason. Even when the spark comes from a tiny business, to become a full on inferno, an idea needs to have the fuel of a large entity. 


This is especially true when it comes to sustainability. Sure, the shop on the corner can use recycled cotton for their carry bags--which is all well and good--but what happens when Coca-Cola starts rethinking their plastic usage?

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Many global organizations feel as if they have a responsibility to lead the way in sustainability: From low carbon emissions to better working conditions for their workers, the eyes of the world are upon the big players. And it is a win for all involved when those eyes spy ethical practices and a conscience.

We know that sustainability is good for a company’s reputation, bottom line, and investors, but it doesn’t stop there. Like the proverbial pebble making ripples in the ocean, when a big corporation turns towards sustainability, the impact is felt far and wide.


How Global Leaders in Sustainability Get It Done


Starbucks and Straws:

It didn’t start with straws, and it won’t end with straws, but the elimination of straws is the easiest to grasp takeaway in what Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson calls the company’s “commitment to pursue a bold, multi-decade aspiration to become resource positive and give more than we take from the planet.”


The elimination of straws from their beverages is just the frothy tid-bit of Starbucks’ sustainability efforts. Other efforts include a big push to get right with the environment by 2030. Their website lays out many ambitious goals: reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent; reduce waste sent to landfills from stores and manufacturing by 50 percent, and . . . conserve or replenish 50 percent of the water currently being used for direct operations and coffee production.

The coffee company is also implementing new tracking measures that focus on more than just the bottom line. They will measure carbon emissions, water usage, and other sustainability metrics. Supply chain is also getting a revamp as Starbucks pledges to make their systems more efficient and less wasteful. Finally, the company is encouraging more employees to get involved and help create a better world that the brand envisions.


Mastercard Rethinks Plastic:

A credit card company advocating for less plastic? Incongruous as it might be, Mastercard is leading the way. The company estimates that about six billion payment cards are produced each year globally.” The cards are in use for three to five years and then get tossed in landfills. These amount to literal tons of cards in landfills each year.


Cards are typically made from non-biodegradable PVC, but Mastercard and its vendors have developed cards that take less of an environmental toll through their Greener Payments Partnership.


Johnson & Johnson Advocates Health for All:

First aid brand Johnson & Johnson has always stood for keeping people healthy. Now, it’s expanding that care to the environment as well. When you’re as big as Johnson & Johnson, there are a lot of opportunities where sustainability can make a difference. To name just a few:

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  • Wind energy: The company has invested in wind energy in the United States to add to their Irish wind holdings. As of this year, 30% of Johnson & Johnson’s energy comes from renewable energy.
  • Watching water: Johnson & Johnson has investigated high risk water areas across the globe. They’ve worked to mitigate drought risk in South Africa, found ways to reuse waste water in Mexico, and improved water treatment techniques in the United States.
  • Product sustainability: The company has their Earthwards initiative that helps design, implement, and innovate existing products into more sustainable ones.

Ford Flexes Sustainability Power:

Other companies have 2030 as a deadline, but for Ford, the clock is ticking down to 2022. By then, the company hopes to have 40 more electric and/or hybrid vehicles in their lineup.

Ford issued this statement: “We’re all in on this and we’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them. If we want to be successful with electrification, we have to do it with vehicles that are already popular.”

The car company has many aspirational environmental goals, as outlined in their sustainability report. These include becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and reducing or eliminating single-use plastics by 2023.

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Spoiler alert: Coca-Cola DID rethink its packaging. Parts of Europe are already seeing environmentally friendly cardboard in place of shrink wrapped plastic on their multi can packs of Coke products.

In 2019, the company announced ambitious plans to bolster its already on-track sustainability efforts. For example, 98% of Coca-Cola packaging is recyclable, but the company is striving for more. This includes messaging targeted at consumers encouraging them to recycle Coca-Cola packaging.


What’s Next...

Your company doesn’t need to be Microsoft or Lego to start making an impact. Rather, stand on the shoulders of these giants to get a better picture of how your business might benefit from sustainability. Remember that you don’t have to do everything at once. Your company can make great strides by looking at a small section of your business and starting there. Consider these three ways to help you become more globally minded, one step at a time:

  • Philanthropy: Even small businesses can make a big difference. While you may not have Microsoft’s resources, you can be a big fish in the small pond of your community. Start doing good at home and you’ll see the ripple effect soon enough.
  • Humane Labor Practices: You don’t need to be a Certified B Corporation to start implementing better labor practices which will have ramifications throughout your workforce and your market. Think of offering better-than-industry-standard benefits and vacation packages.
  • Volunteering: Let your brand be known as the most helpful, generous, and giving player in your space. The company that volunteers together often profits together.



Remember that you’re not in it alone. Your business can do it’s part in sustainability and feel assured they are connecting with the most qualified in the industry by using Overlap to book trusted and vetted sustainability Experts. Booking with Overlap takes the hard work, time and guessing out of hiring the best Experts for your sustainability needs. 

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