One may question the motives, but the spreading popularity of eco-conscious living really seems to have made an impact on the ever present power battle between consumers and suppliers, with both sides now being happy enough to walk that extra mile to minimise their ecological footprint.
For some it’s always going to be just a trend, for some – an opportunity to cash in extra for “environmentally friendlier” services – while some have truly started to appreciate the benefits of switching to smarter, eco-friendlier alternatives. Even if they’re only doing it for the image, the planet’s still benefiting and as long as we, the customers, keep demanding greener goods, companies will continue to strive to provide it.
Here are five companies already exceeding our green expectations!
1. Santander Brazil
Scoring the highest in US Magazine’s Newsweek‘s 2012 ranking of the world’s “greenest” companies, Santander Brazil, a division of the Spanish banking group, earned its title by asking its prospective clients that to fill in an environmental questionnaire. These answers are then presented to a special risk committee that the bank provides training to on social and environmental matters, and if they’re believed not to be sufficiently eco-conscious, the clients are advised on more sustainable practices.
This analysis, applied to wholesale banking customers, includes assessment of legal, social and environmental requirements regarding soil contamination, deforestation, working conditions and more. Thanks to its counselling system, Banco Santander prides itself on not having to reject any financing transaction in 2011 because of it failing to comply with internationally established social and environmental requirements.
Ranked #1 in Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics 2012 and #2 in the Newsweek global rankings, this Indian multinational provider of IT services focuses on promoting sustainability within the company and among its customers. Wipro has shown remarkable results in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing its use of renewable energy, placing energy efficient products in the market and operating an effective take-back policy and performance on the collection and recycling of post-consumer e-waste.
As one of Wipro’s slogans goes: “Businesses today have a clear responsibility to contribute to the creation of a just, equitable and humane society” and in terms of eco-consciousness this approach has placed it way ahead other IT services giants like Microsoft, Oracle and Accenture.
Another Brazilian company, Banco Bradesco, one of the biggest banking and financial services provider in Brazil this year, has landed in the third place in Newsweek’s 2012 rating. Bradesco strives towards sustainable finance, responsible management and social-environmental investments.
Similarly to Santander, the company uses social and environmental criteria when assigning loans, while one of the best examples of its environmental investments is founding a non-profit organisation that conserves 10 million hectares of the Amazonian rainforest. It pays the inhabitants of the rainforest several hundreds of US dollars a year in exchange for them attending a training course on environmental awareness, and committing to both zero deforestation and to ecological practices to prevent forest fires. The company also gives over $50 million a year to plant more than 30 million trees in the Atlantic Forest.
The “greenest” of the U.S. companies scores high in reducing its ecological footprint, minimising GHG emissions and aiming at very strong absolute emissions reductions targets, as well as offering a vast range of climate solutions through its “Smarter Planet” program. IBM also offers its own products labelled as environmentally responsible alternatives, such as replacement printer toners. While Greenpeace remains unimpressed by IBM’s inability to take a progressive position in the political debate on climate legislation, Newsweek has praised its efforts by ranking it in fourth position of world’s “greenest” companies.
As one of IBM’s most recognized environmental endeavours, “Smarter Planet” aims to highlight good examples of economic growth, sustainable development and progress achieved through use of smarter systems including smart grids, water management systems, greener buildings and others. That way the company encourages its clients to measure and reduce the resources they consume and even save money in the process.
5. National Australia Bank
On Valentine’s Day 2011 National Australia Bank came up with a rather extraordinary PR campaign, announcing a public break-up from the other biggest Australian banks. From what we’ve seen, this mock break up has done the bank some good – it certainly wouldn’t have landed as the #5 in Newsweek’s green rankings if it had to face the same accusations as its ex-lover ANZ, whom Greenpeace believes to be pouring money into new coal power stations instead of supporting “clean” energy.
The bank took the pledge to be carbon neutral in 2007 and achieved it in 2010 by changing and curbing energy use, reducing its emissions by more than 25% and tripling its investment in gas and wind-powered projects over the past five years.
As I kept making my way through Newsweek’s list, I was glad to see companies like BT Group, Munich Re, Bell Canada, Nokia, Fujitsu and others making into the top 50. Yet it also got me wondering whether going “green” isn’t actually easier for bigger corporations who can afford to invest in greener practises that are likely to pay off in the long term, compared to new, independent businesses who may not live to see the fruit of their labour.
What do you think? Share your thoughts!
Estelle Page is a self-employed interior designer who roots for eco-friendly solutions – not only in interior design but in every aspect of her life, and knows to appreciate a good effort when she sees one. Looking back at this year’s achievements in the cause, she blogs for Office King.