Green washing is rampant. Which companies are really walking the walk that results in resource conservation? And how?
Companies all over the globe are working to become lodged in the public consciousness as Eco-Leaders—the white hats who care about the environment and produce sustainable, green products in an environmentally sound way.
For those that are serious—and have made green part of their corporate culture—profit isn’t the only motivation. They look at their focus on sustainability as the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit.
What makes a company an Eco-Leader?
It’s complicated. Not only is the sustainability bar high, but it is fragmented all over a map that includes where the materials come from, how they are manufactured and where they go once the product has served its life—those embodied energy costs. Other factors include how far the product is transported and how it functions. Then there are aesthetics. No matter how sustainable, few end users want ugly. And finally, there is education. How does a company help consumers know what they want and need in terms of green, sustainable products—without making them feel like they are being lectured?
To complicate the idea of Eco-Leaders even further, there are research companies using different criteria with which to judge products and processes. For example, GlobeScan and SustainAbility just issued their third annual survey of the 2013 sustainability leaders. Approximately 1,170 sustainability experts from 73 companies completed the latest survey online from February 20 to March 14, 2013. Respondents were among “the most influential thought leaders in the sustainability arena from over 60 countries,[asked] to explore the biggest sustainability challenges,” and included leading sustainable development experts and practitioners from five sectors: corporate, government, NGOs, institutional (e.g., academics) and service (e.g., consultants, media). The surveys can be downloaded from the GlobeScan or SustainAbility Web sites (see sidebar). In case you’re wondering, a company called Unilever took the first position in this latest survey.
Others who rank sustainability are the Newsweek Green Rankings, and Corporate Knights’ Global 100.
The fourth Newsweek Green Rankings, published in October 2012, lauded Walmart, number 41 in its ranking, for reducing waste and buying renewable energy (some stores power with PV solar and have remodeled to use natural daylighting for illumination). It is also using its clout to pressure suppliers to be more environmentally conscious, as well as economical. The Newsweek survey ranked the top 500 companies. The Global 100 list has been produced since 2005; 10 of the 100 are U.S. companies.
In this annual report, we’ll introduce you to six companies from the building industry and beyond that are really making a positive difference.
Ingersoll Rand: Green from the Inside Out
Ingersoll Rand is among the top green companies cited in Newsweek’s Green Rankings. It is also one of only seven companies in the S&P 500 to integrate sustainability reporting into its corporate annual report, according to the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, which wrote an article on sustainability and financial disclosure. The article states that “nearly all S&P 500 companies are failing to connect the disclosure dots. A mere seven companies are integrating financial and sustainability reporting. These trendsetters include […] Ingersoll Rand."
One of only seven companies in the S&P 500 to integrate sustainability reporting into its corporate annual report.
Among Ingersoll Rand brands are Schlage locks and hardware and Trane high-efficiency HVAC equipment, both featured in VISION House® in INNOVENTIONS at Epcot®. The house also displays Ingersoll Rand’s smart home technology, Nexia Home Intelligence, with Schlage Home Keypad locks, Schlage cameras and the Trane ComfortLink II Control.
Hands-on help to reach program goals on LEED, ENERGY STAR Building and the Green Building Initiative.
Products, such as Schlage Home Keypad locks and the Trane ComfortLink II Control integrate with Nexia Home Intelligence, to fully integrate smart home technology, saving energy.
Dedicated Web site for Ingersoll Rand’s Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability.
The company’s highly trained employees help customers meet sustainable building goals through certification programs such as LEED, ENERGY STAR Building and the Green Building Initiative. The firm also has a Web site dedicated to its Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability that has a wealth of education resources and information.
Chris Tessier, director of communication for Ingersoll Rand’s Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability, says the company shares the world community’s growing concern for the planet, and is committed to driving environmental progress. With a century-long history of innovation in energy-efficient and environmentally friendly technologies, the company strives to help its customers meet their sustainability goals by offering solutions to operate more efficiently, use less energy, and cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. Ingersoll Rand promises to care as much about the planet as it does about all other aspects of its business.
Boral Products: Reducing Pollution During And After Manufacture
Among the many eco-friendly products featured in VISION House® in INNOVENTIONS at Epcot® are Boral Bricks and Pavers, Boral Cultured Stone products and Boral TruExterior Trim.
But probably the visionary Boral product that stands out the most is BoralPure Smog-Eating Roof Tile. No kidding, the truly innovative concrete roof tile not only shields the home from sun and weather, but it also protects against air pollution.
BoralPure Smog-Eating Roof Tile works as catalytic converter to eat as much smog in a year as a car driven up to 10,800 miles produces.
Sustainably manufactured brick has zero waste.
Cultured Stone consists of a minimum of 54% pre-consumer waste stream material, and also meets the indoor air quality standards of the stringent GREENGuard Children & Schools standard.
Boral TruExterior Trim is the first exterior trim product to be awarded Cradle to Cradle certification.
Pavers slow rainwater runoff.
The technology is similar to that of a catalytic converter on a car. The catalyst embedded in the upper portion of the roof tile—when exposed to sunlight—speeds up oxidization, reducing nitrogen oxide. In the course of a year, a 2,000-square-foot BoralPure Smog-Eating Roof Tile roof consumes as much smog as a car driven up to 10,800 miles produces.
The company’s brick is sustainably manufactured and packaged in the U.S., with zero waste. Insurance companies and consumers like brick, which can save up to 5% on homeowners’ insurance rates—and add up to 6% in higher resale value. Its Cultured Stone veneer consists of a minimum of 54% pre-consumer waste stream material and also meets the indoor air quality standards of the stringent GREENGuard Children & Schools Standard (SCS). Boral TruExterior Trim: Wood-Replacement Product is manufactured with proprietary bio-based polymers and fly ash with a recycled and rapidly renewable, SCS-certified content that exceeds 70%; it is the first and only exterior trim product to be awarded Cradle to Cradle certification.
Pavers allow rainwater to percolate into the water table instead of contributing to polluting runoff.
Hanwha Solar: Efficient, Transparent and Generous
Since 1999, Hanwha has not only produced solar products using solar energy to power its plants, but has also recycled waste and saved water (partly through “brown-water” recycling). In 2012, Hanwha reduced energy consumption by 160% over the previous year, and decreased greenhouse gas emissions by a 145% year-over-year improvement. Hanwha SolarOne photovoltaic modules are part of the VISION House® in INNOVENTIONS at Epcot®.
Hanwha reduced energy consumption by 160% over the previous year, and decreased greenhouse gas emissions by a 145% year-over-year improvement.
The company participates in the Carbon Disclosure Project, demonstrating transparent, eco-friendly management.
Voluntary recycling program recycles PV old modules.
Company donates solar modules and builds solar power plants to fight desertification and to reforest.
Hanwha’s “Happy Sunshine Campaign” donates solar power generation systems to community service facilities throughout Korea.
Since 2001, the company has been implementing sustainable management practices on environmental, safety, health and energy issues, says Jeffrey Juger, marketing manager for Hanwha SolarOne USA. The company participated in voluntary disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions, through the Carbon Disclosure Project, to demonstrate group-wide commitment to transparent, eco-friendly management. This holistic approach ensures that the renewable energy produced by a Hanwha SolarOne module is indisputably green at point-of-use and end-of-life. It’s a good example of how greening operations actually can go hand-in-hand with cost reductions.
After at least 25 years, when modules may reach the end of their life cycles, Hanwha SolarOne offers a voluntary recycling program. They have anticipated long-term solar module recycling needs, and developed the necessary infrastructure and funding. By participating in the recycling of PV modules, the company has added an extra level of renewability to its products, Juger says.
The company also gives back. For example, in collaboration with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Hanwha agreed with the provincial government of Ningxia, China, in 2011 to donate solar modules, and to build a solar power plant in what’s known as the the Mu Us region of Lingwu City. This program is a unique public-private partnership which offers a framework for sustainable and long-term solutions to fighting desertification. The plant now provides an hourly generation capacity of 80 kW, enough to power a 3,200-square-meter tree nursery in the Baijitan Nature Reserve in Lingwu City, for reforestation of an 855-hectare area of the Mu Us Desert. This is just one of the company’s global projects.
Hanwha SolarOne is also the official solar partner of the San Francisco Giants; as with its effort in the Solar Decathlon, Hanwha SolarOne hopes its mutual efforts with the Giants will significantly increase Bay Area awareness of environmental responsibility and educate the next generation.
Saint-Gobain: Innovative and Sustainable for the Ages
From mirrors made in 1665 for Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, to the fabric roof sheltering the Denver International Airport, the French company, Saint-Gobain has a long history of innovation and sustainability.
The company’s fiberglass insulation uses recycled glass and an organic plant-based binder, making it formaldehyde free.
“We were doing it all along,” says Carmen Ferrigno, vice president of communications, referring to sustainability and innovation. “It’s embedded in our company culture,” he says. The company expects to be around another 350 years. ”Taking the long view is a hallmark of sustainability,” he adds. Like others interviewed, Ferrigno decries what he calls the “education vacuum” about sustainability.
SAGE electrochromic glass can be made to go from transparent to opaque in order to reduce heat gain and diffuse light when the sun shines directly
on the glass.
For the third consecutive year, recipient of the ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Among Saint-Gobain’s best-known U. S. brands, and its largest subsidiary, is CertainTeed. Their PowerMax solar modules employ copper-indium-selenium (CIS) thin-film technology—resulting in highly efficient cost-to-power ratio.
Other company innovations include the growing of artificial sapphire crystals for LED lights, and fiberglass insulation that combines recycled glass with an organic plant-based binder, making it formaldehyde free. The company is leveraging its expertise in ceramics to develop a solar reflective roofing shingle. And its SAGE electrochromic glass can transition from transparent to opaque, reducing heat gain and diffusing sunlight as needed.
In North America, Saint-Gobain has more than 250 locations, with approximately 19,000 employees and reported sales of approximately $7.9 billion in 2012. Employees include building scientists, who Ferrigno says are the “CSI of construction.” They study building failures and adjust products and systems to do better.
For the third consecutive year this year, Saint-Gobain received the ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The award recognizes outstanding leadership in energy management and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Through its U.S. subsidiaries, Saint-Gobain continues to be the only manufacturer of glass containers or fiberglass insulation ever to receive the award.
Since 2008, the company has improved energy intensity by 14.9% (the amount of energy used to produce a unit of product). In 2012, Saint-Gobain businesses in North America reduced their energy intensity by 3%—equivalent to the amount of energy needed to make shingles for new roofs on more than 1 million typical U.S. homes, or enough fiberglass insulation for more than 147,000 typical U.S. homes. In addition, the energy savings achieved by the company equates to avoiding more than 90,503 tons of carbon dioxide emissions last year.
Whole Foods: Covering All of the Angles
Everyone has to eat., and in this era when food is medicine, Whole Foods has carved a holistic sustainable niche. In 1980, the company started with one small store in Austin, Texas. Today, Whole Foods Market has more than 340 stores in North America and the United Kingdom.
Whole Foods Market’s core values include selling the highest quality natural and organic products available.
Changing food offerings in response to trends.
Supporting employee personal growth.
Offering loans to small, local farmers and artisans.
Donating to communities where stores are based.
Creating ongoing win-win partnerships with its suppliers.
The company supports organic farmers, growers and the environment through its commitment to sustainable agriculture and by expanding the market for organic products. That concern extends to seafood and meat. The company has made the sourcing of food transparent for consumers, giving preference to seafood caught wild or farmed responsibly and farm animals raised without hormones or antibiotics. So far, they’ve managed to avoid taking a stand on thorny moral and ethical issues such as vegetarianism.
The company recycles aggressively, and gives a minimum of 5% of its profits to a wide variety of community and non-profit organizations.
The grocery views its suppliers and trade partners as “allies in serving its stakeholders,” the customers, treating them with respect, fairness and integrity. It also offers a loan program, providing up to $10 million in low-interest loans to independent local farmers and food artisans, which their corporate executives see as “lending a hand, not a handout.”
Whole Foods also watches consumer trends closely. With food allergies and hyper-vigilance becoming part of their buyers’ mindset, they cater to customers with a wide range of special needs foods.
They’ve also begun to address criticism for their high prices, Whole Foods’ house brand, 365, offers products that are often competitive with, but less costly than, standard supermarket prices.
The company also provides recipes (both in store and on the Web site), educational signage throughout its stores—and healthy eating education events.
Bosch: New “Experience” of Sustainability Tells a Technological Story
Bosch opened its first U.S. Experience Center at Serenbe, Chattahoochee Hills, GA, on May 31, and I happened to be on hand to check it out.
With the opening of its new Experience Center, Bosch has made a major commitment to public education about sustainability in the U.S.
Bosch’s clean diesel fuel injection system is 30% more fuel efficient than similar gasoline-powered automobile technology.
Bosch tankless water heaters provide endless
water on demand, save up to 50% on water-heating costs and require far less space than traditional
Geothermal heat pumps are another of Bosch’s super-efficient offerings.
The Bosch Experience Center at Serenbe is the first of its kind in North America, and will serve as a teaching and interactive demonstration center. It showcases a suite of Bosch energy products, including aluminum structural materials from Bosch Rexroth; ENERGY STAR recognized appliances such as dishwashers; diesel systems; heating and cooling technology such as geothermal; power tools; security and sound systems; and a solar photovoltaic panel.
Serenbe is a 40,000 acre sustainable community in which only 20% of the land will be developed. Modeled after English villages, the community is about 30 miles south of Atlanta. Bosch clearly chose the location carefully. They are on a major push to tell the company’s sustainability story.
Mike Mansuetti, company president, spoke about how establishing the Bosch Experience Center at Serenbe aligns with the values of company founder and namesake, Robert Bosch. The 127-year-old global company is dedicated to “providing technological answers to ecological questions.”