- The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. –Oxford Dictionaries
- To create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations. –Environmental Protection Agency
- Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. -United Nations
Corporate Environmental Sustainability Goals: 45 Examples & Definitions
Are you spearheading a new sustainability initiative for your company? Looking for ideas to refresh your existing strategy?
We scoured the internet for examples and definitions of corporate environmental sustainability and compiled them here.
Ask anyone to define sustainability and you’ll probably get a different answer every time.
While some focus on the environmental side of sustainability, others include economics, communities, infrastructure, and health.
For example, the UN’s sustainable development goals encompass a broad spectrum of environmental goals such as clean energy and climate action as well as goals for economic growth, hunger, poverty, health, education, equality, peace, and justice.
Companies often categorize sustainability into three pillars: Environment, Social, and Economic.
This article focuses on corporate environmental sustainability.
Whether you are starting from ground zero with a corporate sustainability plan, or looking to refresh your existing program, keep reading for plenty of examples and inspiration!
If you’re starting a corporate sustainability program from ground zero, you’ll need to justify your time and resources. Here are four reasons to invest in corporate sustainability:
- Better for the environment.
- Improve your bottom line.
- Your employees benefit from healthier and safer working conditions.
- Can be positioned as a competitive advantage.
Environmental Sustainability Definitions & Examples
To organize the examples, we broke them down into three categories, or hierarchies. Click on any of the buttons below to jump to that section.
Third Party Certifications and Rating Systems
Pollution can occur in the air, water, or soil. Pollution prevention, sometimes referred to as P2, refers to reducing or eliminating waste at the source. Goals such as waste reduction and reducing carbon footprint ultimately support a much broader objective of pollution prevention.
- Modify your production processes to emit less waste or emissions
- Use non-toxic or less-toxic substances
- Implement conservation techniques (use less energy and water at your facility)
- Reuse materials, such as production scrap or shop towels, rather than putting them into the waste stream
- Reduce packaging
Resource conservation refers to the practice of using resources such as water, energy, and raw materials efficiently and ethically.
- Install low-flow faucets and water efficient toilets
- Reduce landscape water use
- Engage employees to be more conscientious
- Install automatic light shut off
- Use energy efficient light bulbs
- Reduce scrap material during production
Real World Examples:
- Bosh: According to the Bosh website, they have a goal to reduce waste and water consumption by 2% every year
- Graphics Packaging: Graphics Packaging has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the use of non-renewable energy, reduce water effluent at mills, and increase recovery of paper and paperboard by 2020.
Having a zero waste to landfill goal means you plan to eliminate all discharge to landfill. It means you are not shipping any wastes for treatment at a landfill.
While zero waste and zero waste the landfill are often used interchangeably, zero waste to landfill is a component of zero waste. When a facility acquires the zero waste to landfill (ZWTL) status, it means that absolutely no manufacturing waste from the facility goes to landfill sites.
Some issues with a zero to landfill goal is that a company could incinerate their waste and still claim zero landfill. Unfortunately, Waste to Energy (WTE) can produce large amounts of ash that must still be landfilled.
Real World Examples
- New York City: NYC has a goal to achieve Zero Waste by 2030 (OneNYCPlan), eliminating the need to send waste to out-of-state landfills and minimizing the overall environmental impact of the city’s trash. Many cities also have zero waste goals, such as Minneapolis, Oakland, Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco, LA, San Diego, Dallas, and Austin
- Nestle: According to their sustainability site, Nestle has a goal to reach 100% Zero Waste by 2030.
Waste reduction is the method used to achieve zero waste.
According to the EPA, waste minimization refers to the use of source reduction and/or environmentally sound recycling methods prior to energy recovery, treatment, or disposal of wastes.
If zero waste is too ambitious of a goal, you can start with a goal of waste reduction or waste minimization.
Real World Example
- Amcor: In January 2018, Amcor announced a commitment to develop all packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025. They also pledged to significantly increase their use of recycled materials and drive more recycling of packaging around the world.
Zero discharge means to eliminate discharge pollutants from a point source (such as a building or processing plant) to local waterways.
Zero discharge can refer to a plant eliminating all pollutants (for example, Gold Inc. has zero discharge from their processing plant) or a specific pollutant (for example, Bronze Inc. has zero copper discharge into receiving water from their operations).
Part of zero discharge includes being a good water steward. According to the Water Council, good water stewards understand their own water use, watershed context and shared risk in terms of water governance, water balance, water quality, and important water-related areas.
- Recycle industrial wastewater by treating any reusable water or other material from wastewater and transferring any potential pollutants to a solid phase (sludge).
- Reduce the amount of water needed during production
Real World Example
- Levi Strauss: To help preserve fresh water supplies for drinking and other necessary uses, Levi Strauss & Co. developed a standard to encourage the preservation of fresh water through water recycling.
Reducing your carbon footprint is to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming.
- Reduce waste (this is one way you can reduce your carbon footprint)
- Buy energy efficient items with the ENERGY STAR® logo or items that are EPEAT registered for the office.
- Consider using EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM), which was designed to help solid waste planners organize and track greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- Invest in renewable energy
- Purchase flexible fuel fleet vehicles, or low emissions vehicles
Real World Examples
- GM: According to their 2017 sustainability report, GM has an unwavering commitment to an all-electric, zero-emissions future, regardless of any modifications to future fuel economy standards. They are investing in multiple technologies that offer increasing levels of vehicle electrification. They have committed to using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
- Komatsu Mining: As part of their Environmental Sustainability Program, they are continuously reviewing all of our facilities’ operations to reduce our global carbon footprint.
- Ball Corp: Ball Corp’s goal is to cut the carbon footprint of their beverage cans by 25 percent
Lean manufacturing is a systematic method for waste minimization within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity. These wastes refer to defects, excess processing, overproduction, waiting, inventory, moving, motion, and non-utilized talent.
A reduction in excess processing and defects, in particular, can have a substantial impact on environmental sustainability.
- Viking Plastics: In 2011, Viking Plastics embarked on a journey of continuous improvement and culture transformation, following the “2-Second Lean” model. They educated all of their employees — in all job descriptions — on the “eight wastes” targeted for elimination by lean manufacturing organizations.
Alternative energy refers to all non-fossil-fuel-based energy sources and processes. Examples include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, wave power, nuclear, hydropower.
- Toyota: According to their sustainability website, Toyota is evaluating applications of solar, geothermal and stationary hydrogen fuel cells, as well as the purchase of green power either directly from a utility company or through renewable energy credits. They are also experimenting with other types of renewable and alternative energy, such as geothermal systems and landfill gas.
Responsible consumption means using our resources and energy efficiently. Responsibility lies in the hands of everyone – manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers.
- Encourage carpooling or riding a bike to work
- Utilize rerouting and logistics to minimize fuel consumption
- Use less packaging in your product
Responsible waste management falls into the hands of every person, and company, that generates waste. It means that waste is properly segregated and handled accordingly. According to the EPA’s waste management hierarchy, source reduction and reuse are the preferred methods, followed by recycling, energy recovery, and finally, treatment and disposal.
- Designate colored recycling bins for different wastes and make them accessible to all employees
- Evaluate all waste, and find a way to move it up the waste hierarchy.
Recycling means turning an item into raw materials which can be used again, usually for a completely new product. Reuse, in contrast, refers to using an object as it is without breaking it down.
Reuse is preferred over recycling because recycling consumes more energy.
Advocacy is the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. Advocacy can be a powerful way for companies to effect real change in environmental sustainability.
- Educate peers about corporate sustainability
- Educate consumers about responsible consumption
- Lobby for new policies or regulations
- Donate to non-profit organizations that support sustainability
Innovation can accelerate and even revolutionize environmental sustainability initiatives. It can come in the form of product or process innovation and is a key part of achieving sustainability goals.
- Upgrade to new equipment that results in fewer defective parts (and, therefore, less waste)
- Modify product packaging so that it can be easily recycled.
Whereas LEED refers to the building sector, PEER refers to the power sector. PEER stands for Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal. It’s a rating system that evaluates a power system’s performance for reliability, safety, efficiency, grid service, innovation, and regional priority.
TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) helps organizations understand how materials flow through their facilities and identify redesign opportunities so that all products are reused.
TRUE-certified projects must meet a minimum of 90 percent waste diversion for 12 months from landfills, incinerators (waste-to-energy) or the environment.
TRUE is administered by GBCI and serves as a compliment to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
Six Sigma is a set of tools and techniques to help improve processes within an organization.
The primary goal of the Six Sigma certification is to validate individuals who possess the skills to identify errors or defects in a business process and eliminate them.
The Six Sigma certification comes in various skill levels: Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt. These certifications can be obtained through an accreditation body like the American Society for Quality (ASQ).
If your focus is on energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water conservation, you may want to consider LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is a widely used green building rating system. LEED applies strictly to a building or neighborhood, not a company. LEED buildings save energy, water, resources, generate less waste and support human health.
Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) is the exclusive provider of third-party certification and professional credentials for LEED.
Real World Example
- Colgate Palmolive: LEED buildings helps reduce Colgate’s environmental impact and overall exposure to water and climate change related issues.
ISO 50001 supports organizations to use energy more efficiently, through the development of an energy management system.
ISO 14001:2015 specifies the requirements for an environmental management system that an organization can use to improve environmental performance. ISO 14001:2015 helps companies manage environmental responsibilities in a well-defined, systematic approach.
Real World Example
- ITU AbsorbTech: All of ITU AbsotrbTech’s production facilities are registered to the ISO 14001:2015 standard. ITU AbsorbTech is committed to dynamic change and improvement and holds all facilities to the same high standard.
These examples will hopefully get your gears turning on how you can take your environmental sustainability initiative to the next level.
Remember these key steps in building and improving your plan:
- Get buy-in from the top down
- Form a sustainability team and involve people from all impacted areas of your business
- Get your plan in writing
- Include SMART goals in your plan (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound)
- Network with other EHS professionals
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About ITU AbsorbTech
ITU AbsorbTech is a steadily growing environmental service company with a long-standing commitment to sustainable business practices.
For over 90 years, ITU AbsorbTech has provided managed service programs for launderable, reusable textile products in support of cleaner, safer and more productive work environments.