There’s no denying the facts. Climate change is real, and it poses an existential threat to life as we know it. While making changes towards sustainability in your own life certainly makes a difference, the actions of publicly traded corporations are responsible for some of humanity’s most significant environmental impacts. In other words, the money in your investment profile might affect our planet’s future more than you realize.
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The United States passed its first ever climate bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, in 2022.
Although the IRA has a decidedly consumer focus with its solar and EV incentives, here, we’ll look at some of the actions taken by publicly traded companies for the environment and assess which ones are taking steps towards fighting climate change.
As the parent of Google, Alphabet is a giant in the tech world and an industry leader for environmental sustainability. The company became carbon neutral in 2007, and ten years later, it became the first company of its size to match its total electricity consumption with renewable energy.
Alphabet is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, which includes more than 50 projects totaling 5.5 GW of renewable energy projects under contract worldwide. This accounts for an annual deficit of approximately five million tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
By 2030, Alphabet plans to become the first major company to operate full-time on carbon-free energy. It plans to do so by continuing to invest in renewable energy generation and storage technologies that can also benefit other businesses.
#2. Beyond Meat
Our current appetite for meat is spelling doom for the planet, so Beyond Burger is developing faux-meat products from plant-based ingredients that satisfy even picky palates. The company has seen a business boom in recent years as its meat-free burgers have entered restaurants and grocery stores.
Each product offers plant-based nutrition through ingredients such as pea protein, coconut oil, and canola oil, which have a smaller environmental impact than conventionally raised meat and dairy.
A peer-reviewed Life Cycle Analysis from the University of Michigan assessed the Beyond Burger’s environmental impact compared to a standard quarter pounder. The study determined that the Beyond Burger required 99% less land, 93% less land, 46% less energy, and produced 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to its cow counterpart.
As plant-based diets continue to gain appeal, companies like Beyond Burger are expected to continue growing their market share.
Information technology giant HP is making fighting climate change a primary goal in the coming decades. The company has committed to eliminating 75% of its single-use plastic packaging by 2025 compared to 2018 levels.
HP is also investing in developing energy-efficient equipment and services to keep its products in operation longer. For example, in 2019, the company eliminated power cord plastic ties and plastic document bags in its packaging. Likewise, HP is actively shifting from plastic foam packaging cushions to ones made from recycled, molded pulp, which should eliminate the disposal of over 900 tons of expanded plastic foam each year.
HP is also increasing the amount of recycled plastics in its printers and other equipment. This totaled over 25,000 tons of post-consumer recycled plastics in printers and PS products in 2019 (about 9% of total plastics used) with goals of increasing the amount by 30% by 2025.
Regarding paper products, the company launched the HP Sustainable Forest Collaborative to support forest restoration. It also eliminated deforestation from its supply chain of HP paper in 2026 and plans to do so for all paper-based product packaging by the end of 2020.
This UK-based company represents dozens of consumer brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Dove, Axe, Breyers, Lipton, and more. Twenty-six of Unilever’s brands are 100% sourced from sustainable materials, and the company has set the lofty goal of halving its environmental footprint and becoming carbon negative by 2030.
This included adopting a Sustainable Agriculture Code in 2018 that dictated best practices for sourcing raw materials from global suppliers in ecologically sustainable ways. At present, the company has reduced its CO2 emissions by 65 percent, and its total waste sent for disposal by 96 percent compared to 2008 levels.
Unilever is an industry leader in reusable and recyclable packaging, thanks in part to a partnership with Loop where single-use products are sold in refillable glass and stainless steel packaging that consumers can continue to reuse.
#5. Johnson & Johnson
As the parent company of skincare brands Johnson’s, Neutrogena, and Aveeno, Johnson & Johnson plans to do its part to combat climate change by committing to packaging that is 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025. And while its facilities are currently powered by 35% renewable energy, it plans to bring this percentage to 100% by 2050.
The company is also gaining attention for its environmental activism today. For example, Johnson & Johnson received the Energy Star Partner of the Year Award in 2019, earned a spot on the CPD A List for its action against climate change, and is a committee leader for the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance.
On a consumer level, Johnson & Johnson is committed to keeping plastic microbeads out of all products. It has supported climate mitigation efforts in 26 cities that should directly affect up to 60 million people.
Electric car manufacturer Tesla has built its reputation around environmental sustainability. It’s the first vehicle manufacturer to produce over one million electric cars, which it claims have prevented close to 4 million tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Many of the company’s facilities are powered by 50% or more renewable energy, with the Nevada Gigafactory achieving 100%.
Tesla has also invested in a Supercharger network, which has delivered over 595 Gigawatt-hours of energy, the equivalent of about 75 million gallons of gas. You can capitalize on this same technology at home by investing in a Tesla lithium-ion battery for storing renewable energy.
The company sources many of its raw materials through an “environmentally responsible and humane supply chain” by collecting data from its suppliers through the Responsible Minerals Initiatives Cobalt Reporting Template.
Beyond the business, Tesla provided disaster relief financial assistance for regions experiencing hurricanes and forest fires throughout 2018 and 2019 and delivered clean power solutions to critical infrastructure sites through solar panels.
This tech industry leader is modeling responsible corporate behavior for fighting climate change. Starting in 2021, Microsoft will up its internal carbon emissions fee to $40 per metric ton of emissions. The company plans to shift to 100% renewable energy by 2025 and become carbon negative by 2030. By 2050, it hopes to remove all the carbon that the company has been responsible for since its founding in 1975.
There are also plans to make the company’s corporate base 100% zero-waste and to power all new buildings on renewable energy alone.
Microsoft is also focusing on the power of AI development to implement sustainability initiatives that minimize the negative environmental impact of farming while developing solutions for pulling carbon from the atmosphere, fighting wildfires, and protecting endangered species. The goal is that Microsoft customers can then use this technology to reduce their own carbon footprints.
Apple’s innovation isn’t limited to product development, as the company is considered an industry leader for sustainable manufacturing.
Greenpeace award Apple the label of “most eco-friendly tech company in the world from 2015-2017. The company’s facilities are entirely carbon-neutral, meaning that every office, store, and data center runs on renewable energy. By 2030, it plans to say the same about its products.
Currently, the iPhone final assembly facilities have committed to a 20% energy reduction by the end of 2020. Apple has also invested close to $300 million in its China Clean Energy Fund program to support renewable energy development.
In 2018, Apple achieved 100% zero waste certifications for the final assembly facilities for a variety of products, and over 1.3 million metric tons of waste have been diverted from landfills since 2015.
The tech giant is working on expanding its global recycling programs to reuse valuable components in older products. It’s set goals of one day utilizing only 100% recyclable and renewable materials made with clean energy.
Despite a reputation for supporting fast fashion, this activewear giant is making strides towards environmental sustainability. The company has launched a “Move to Zero” initiative intending to reduce carbon emissions by 30% across its entire supply chain by 2030.
According to the Nike 2019 Impact Report, Nike Air products contain at least 50% recycled materials and divert more than 95% of otherwise waste materials from the trash. Over 75% of all Nike products sold include some recycled materials, and 99.9% of footwear manufacturing waste is recycled or converted into energy. Likewise, all Nike North American operations are powered 100% on renewable energy, with goals of extending this across the globe by 2025.
The company also has implemented the Nike Grind recycling program, where used footwear and surplus manufacturing materials are transformed into new shoes and apparel, running tracks, basketball courts, outdoor play equipment, and more. Over its 25-year operation, Nike Grind has recycled 30 million pairs of sports shoes.
This global toy company is taking strides to lower its environmental impact and conserve natural resources by improving its products’ sustainability without compromising their safety or durability.
Hasbro is continuously innovating its packaging for maximum sustainability by sourcing materials from renewable or recycled sources, avoiding unnecessary materials, optimizing shipping efficiency, and offering innovative ways for the consumer to recycle packaging themselves.
For example, the brand removed the non-recyclable polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in its packaging in 2013, started using post-consumer recycled materials in 2016, and began using a plant-based plastic material made from agricultural byproducts in 2019. Looking forward, Hasbro plans to remove almost all plastic from new plastic packaging by 2022, and by 2025, reduce energy consumption by a quarter, halve the waste sent to landfills, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth.
The company also launched a product recycling program in 2018 known as TerraCycle, which allowed used toys and games to be transformed into materials for constructing outdoor play spaces.