Green Goes Vogue As Big Businesses Embrace Sustainability

Photo courtesy of David Clarke via Flickr

Clean energy isn’t just trendy — it’s profitable, positive, and will only grow from here on out.

For any and all of these reasons, businesses and organizations of all types — even fossil fuel companies — are changing their tune to a much more sustainable note.

There are many reasons to hop aboard the sustainability bandwagon, and take control from there:

But sustainability isn’t simply in vogue — it’s a long-term goal for the planet and the people. While some may continue to stick their heels in the mud, others would rather lead the shift than be left behind to be raked over the coals, literally and metaphorically.

Big businesses turn backs on fossil fuels, go green instead

We’ve written before about the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, through which companies, organizations, and universities are encouraged to make the switch to clean energy, and are ranked annually on how they’re doing.

Tech companies like Intel, Google, and Microsoft lead the way along with retailers like Whole Foods and Kohl’s, as well as the notable inclusion of big corporations like McDonald’s and even the staunchly conservative WalMart.

A governance shift

Big businesses are jumping into sustainable energy with great enthusiasm, and are essentially ahead of the government in their ability to enact change, the Guardian reports.

Dupont, Unilever, and General Electric have changed their energy strategies drastically, along with Toyota, Tesco, and countless others. Why? Energy efficiency saves money, improves profitability, and if done well is a competitive advantage. In fact, some say it’s become a business imperative.

Investors and nonprofits are making the switch, too. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (to noted irony) has stepped up to the green plate in spite of its founders’ oil-born wealth. The heirs to the Standard Oil fortune will sell their fossil fuel investments and reinvest in clean energy as part of Global Divest-Invest, a global philanthropic coalition.

What about oil and coal companies?

Coal companies are some of the worst offenders in terms of environmental harm. In a world that is fast embracing sustainable living, however, the World Coal Association has aligned its philosophy with the movement. Coal power will complement clean energy, the association says, and methods like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), Coal to Liquids (CTL), and Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) will attempt to make coal use greener.

As for oil companies like ExxonMobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell, they too are publicly expressing a desire to align with sustainable goals by allocating funds to develop cleaner fuels.

Of course, these promises, however well intended, may only go so far. Despite appearances, some contend that these companies’ green efforts may be more of a marketing tactic called greenwashing. Oil companies, after all, have continued to lobby for their cause.

Some points to come away with:

  • Many big businesses are embracing sustainability with open arms
  • Renewable energy is profitable and has become a business imperative
  • Fossil fuel companies are aligning themselves with the trend from a marketing perspective

Originally published on October 28, 2014. 

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Jennifer Markert