By Aaron Viles
Last year, world leaders met in Paris to hash out a global climate deal to curb greenhouse gases and prepare countries and communities from the unavoidable impacts of climate change, made so by decades-long feet-dragging and unwillingness to act.
While these public solutions are critical to fighting climate change, equally important are the voluntary steps taken by the private sector that have a direct positive effect and show by example that environmental protection and business success need not be at odds.
Of course, this list is focused solely on environmental considerations, and is offered without assessment of a company’s treatment of workers, either domestically or in overseas factories. More environmental groups are aware of the intersectionality of movements to support the environment and workers, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention that exciting new work.
Here are 10 companies that have taken big steps to address a host of environmental issues, from waste and pollution to climate change and deforestation:
When you think about green businesses, Japanese electronics company Panasonic probably isn’t the first company to pop into your head. In fact, in 2014, Fortune found that Panasonic suffered the largest perception gap between the actions the company’s taken and what people think it’s done.
Sustainability is a key part of the company’s corporate citizenship activities and has influenced everything from energy-saving production improvements to the adoption of recycling-oriented manufacturing.
One of the coolest ways Panasonic is walking the walk is with its new North American headquarters. Historically located in suburban Secaucus, NJ, the company moved to a prime location in downtown Newark in 2013. The move was hailed as a key way to revitalize the struggling city, but for Panasonic, it fulfilled a sustainability mission.
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The company built a new LEED certified tower (gold exteriors, platinum interiors) just blocks from Newark Penn Station, a key transit node for both local and regional transit. This connectivity and transit accessibility has led to a nearly 50 percent drop in the number of workers commuting to work by car alone from 88 to 36 percent. Panasonic’s VP for corporate communications estimates that the move has taken 500 cars off the road every day.
2. New Belgium Brewing Company
Brewing beer can have a lot of environmental downsides, from the energy required to superheat mash to the disposal of spent grain and other waste. Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company, the third-largest craft brewery in the United States, is proving that you don’t need to harm the environment to make it big.
Being eco-friendly is part of the company’s culture and brand, and it’s made an astonishing number of environmental investments. Solar panels help power the bottling plant; an anaerobic digester processes industrial wastewater into energy to power the brewing process; company-issued bicycles help employees get around the 50-acre brewery site.