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What you could learn about sustainability from these large caps

According to a new report, big businesses like the Ford Motor Company are making a big dent in sustainability efforts.
According to a new report, big businesses like the Ford Motor Company are making a big dent in sustainability efforts.Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

A brand new report from Ceres, a non-profit focused on sustainable business, has some harsh criticism for American corporations when it comes to tackling climate change, resource scarcity and other environmental issues. However, the same report does note significant progress made by a select number of major companies in everything from supply chain management to carbon emissions reductions.

According to the report entitled Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, “companies with strong accountability systems – board oversight, clear policies on human rights and environmental management, active stakeholder engagement and disclosure – in many cases also have strong results on greenhouse gas emissions, use of renewable energy, strong work with suppliers, as well as driving sustainability into product and services.”

For example, a fifth of executive cash compensation at Alcoa is tied to safety, diversity and environmental stewardship in the form of greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reductions and energy efficiency. Meanwhile, Coca Cola has reportedly improved the efficiency of its water use by 20% and has identified the need for third-party evaluation of its water management approach.

The Ford Motor Company is working with its suppliers to establish GHG emission reduction and energy efficiency targets, while General Electric has enlisted its human resource department in integrating sustainability into the company’s culture via its hiring practices and training, as well as employee wellbeing programs.

Not to be outdone by Coke, PepsiCo presents its sustainability strategy and goals during its annual shareholder meetings and identifies core sustainability challenges – such as climate change, water scarcity and public health issues – in its annual financial filings. At its own 2013 shareholder meeting, Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz described the company’s efforts to accelerate investments in sustainable farming and its goal of ethically sourcing all of its coffee beans by 2015.

As for Wal-Mart, the retail giant has committed to doubling its truck fleet efficiency in the US by 2015 by replacing nearly two-thirds of its fleet with more fuel-efficient trucks, including hybrids. Other companies singled out for their sustainability efforts in the Ceres report include Adobe, Bank of America, Brown-Forman, Dell, Exelon, General Mills, Johnson and Johnson, Nike, PG&E, Procter and Gamble, and Xylem.

To obtain a copy of Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability and learn how your business can become more sustainable, click here.