Since Rachel Carson released her seminal work Silent Spring in 1962, the environment and how industry affects it has come to the forefront of national and international dialogue. Soon after Carson shocked the world with evidence that pesticides were harming and killing animals and humans, the United States government banned the pesticide DDT, eventually found to cause birth defects, infertility and cancer. It was also revealed that several chemical companies were lying about the environmental and health effects of their chemicals. Eventually, the Environmental Protection Agency was established to force businesses to stop thinking only about the bottom line but to consider their impact on the planet’s and the public’s health, as well.
Today, being environmentally friendly is more than a fad; it has become a principle many companies adhere to. While there are many that deserve recognition for their efforts, the five companies below have made great strides in going green.
Koninklijke Philips N.V. (Philips)
You’ve probably seen a television set or lighting fixture with the Philips logo emblazoned across it. But you may not know that Philips has made environmental sustainability a priority. In 2011 it won the Department of Energy’s L-Prize award, which challenged electronics manufacturers to create an energy-efficient bulb to replace the incandescent.
Cell phones are notoriously bad for the environment: they contain volatile batteries with poisonous chemicals, and often, their manufacturing isn’t a very clean endeavor. In response, Sprint launched several new policies to reduce the amount of packaging, plastics, glues and inks they use. Sprint has also poured millions into research and development to make their wireless transmission stations physically smaller and more energy efficient. Among other Sprint consumer programs, a generous cell phone-recycling program sets the company apart. The program allows customers to sell their old phone back to the company after an upgrade. Spring then recycles the phone components and batteries, keeping their toxic chemicals out of landfills.
Perhaps it is because the electronics industry is notoriously unkind to the Earth that so many electronics companies make this list, but count Dell in, as well. Since 2004, Dell has implemented numerous policy changes and programs to decrease their environmental impact. This includes a strict set of requirements regarding carbon emissions for their own production as well as their suppliers’. Among others, Dell has implemented a company-wide recycling program that resulted in 78 million pounds of equipment being recycled in 2006 alone. They also established the Plant a Tree for Me program: for every computer system sold, Dell provides funding to a conservation non-profit to offset the carbon emissions of that specific system.
Office Depot achieved $10.7 billion in revenue in 2012, a number that surely produces a great amount of waste. Office Depot has been working for years to reduce their sizable environmental impact. It has invested over $20 million in clean energy research and has reduced its carbon emissions by over 10 percent since the programs were started in the early 2000s. Office Depot also offers a variety of green products and has notably cut ties with suppliers who do not follow their strict environmental impact guidelines.
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)
Yes, it’s another technology company, but IBM is quite an anomaly, noted for being one of the worst polluters in the world in the 1970s. Since then, IBM has eliminated CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) in the manufacturing of their hardware and has made significant strides in reducing its carbon footprint. IBM was also named one of the top 20 workplaces for commuters by the EPA in 2005 because of its efforts to help employees get to work in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. Among other initiatives, IBM has spent millions upgrading its facilities to use renewable energy and was recently recognized by the EPA, again, for its commitment to fighting climate change.
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