Can Corporations Encourage Sustainable Practices? The larger the company, the greater the influence on sustainability, or not...

In a largely capitalist world, corporations have the power to be pioneers in many progressive practices. Sustainability is becoming more of a concern as the impact of our carbon footprint is published in scholarly works and broadcasted through news media. As we see more proof of the dangers of careless environmental practices, there is more pressure to incorporate sustainable practices in business, especially for companies large enough to be influential. This is leading to a rise in demand for sustainability coordinators who can help implement sustainable changes into a company’s business model.

Growing Sustainability

As a reflection of changing business priorities, sustainability science has emerged as a field of study in the 21st century. As more corporations look for ways to integrate sustainability into their resources and production, they look for experts who know the particularities of sustainable practices. Sarah Morrow, a sustainability student from Arizona State University, took a class trip to an island in Hong Kong, where she was able to see the impact of littering on beaches and put into perspective what the impact of sustainability is and why she was drawn to that field. “There were a lot of dead fish …it solidified why I wanted to study sustainability. You may not want to recycle that bottle, but if everyone has that same philosophy, it impacts our world,” Morrow said, regarding the effects of not recycling.

There’s a lot that corporations and even small companies can do to encourage sustainable practices, even by making recycling an accessible option to their employees and in their facilities. Any amount of incremental change is a step in the right direction for decreasing the amount of wasted resources on a corporate level. However, larger changes, such as switching to renewable energy sources and making business decisions that save resources in any way possible, is even more helpful. Making these changes is a good investment due to the nature of unsustainable practices. As resources become more limited, they also become more expensive, and will need to be changed in a matter of time.

Maintain Standards

Following rules and minimum standards is not enough. Sustainability standards at the legislative level are a minimum requirement for good practices that companies should be incorporating into their business. While holding corporations to higher standards would likely help an overall transition to more sustainable practices, legislative policy is influenced largely by organizations which would not necessarily benefit from these changes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for example, had a mandated review of asbestos chemicals changed by the Trump Administration due to influence by the chemical industry. Although this particular review is no longer mandated, corporations should continue to perform thorough reviews for the safety of their employees.

Corporate influence
WalMart has worked with Freightliner in designing this “hybrid-assist” delivery truck which uses batteries to augment its diesel engine when it needs more power.

Corporate adoption of sustainability sets an example and standard for clients, as well as their employees and introduces the movement to communities who might not otherwise see it. As the largest employer in several states across the U.S., WalMart is keenly observed to see what they’re doing for the environment. Their website’s sustainability page describes their three main goals, “…to create zero waste, operate with 100 percent renewable energy and sell products that sustain our resources and the environment.” Although WalMart offers low wages, which often creates an unsustainable situation for their employees, they make it clear that they recognize the importance of sustainable practices.

Corporations are extremely influential in the U.S. and should dedicate their efforts to incorporate sustainable practices, not only for their clients and customers but to encourage their employees and the public to do the same. Companies should look for sustainability specialists to help them reduce their carbon footprint and help them be leaders in their communities. Whether it’s recycling, using entirely renewable resources for power, or performing additional reviews of materials to protect their employees, every step towards sustainability counts.