On Monday, April 22, 2019, corporations worldwide will encourage employees to celebrate Earth Day by participating in activities like neighborhood or beach clean-ups, planting trees, or biking/walking to work. While the one-day enthusiasm to care for our planet certainly helps, to make a real difference, companies have to incorporate sustainability into their everyday operations. Here are a few businesses that are making an impact beyond Earth Day.
US-based Apple Inc., which boasts an "unwavering mission to change the world," has adopted several green initiatives to reduce its impact on Earth. In 2017, to stop the over-mining of rare natural materials such as gold and tungsten used in its smartphones and computers, Apple made a commitment to obtain the rare metals through recycling older devices. The technology company is also looking at ways to make its devices 100 percent recycled. "We're moving toward a closed-loop supply chain. One day we'd like to be able to build new products with just recycled materials, including your old products," Apple said in its annual environment report. In 2018, the smart device maker announced that all its operations, spanning 43 countries, were being run using 100% renewable energy — either solar or wind.
Founded in 1966 by two hiking enthusiasts, The North Face Inc., which specializes in outdoor clothing and gear, has always prided itself on being sustainable. In addition to incorporating recycled materials into their products and urging suppliers to reduce chemicals, energy use, and waste in their factories, the company also has a take-back program. "Clothes That Loop," encourages customers to drop-off unwanted North Face products, including old clothing and footwear, to the closest company retail store in exchange for a $10 coupon for their next purchase. The items are sent to Soles4Souls, a non-profit that distributes them to areas struck by disasters or donates them to those in need.
This year on Earth Day, the company is closing all of its 113 North American stores to enable employees to explore nature, without their digital devices, and connect with the "real world" — themselves and other people. North Face has also launched a global campaign to make April 22 an official public holiday to allow everyone the opportunity to do the same. To promote the cause, the corporation has created a weeklong series called “Explore Mode.” It features unique, digital-free interactive events organized by musicians, artists, and culinary influencers in major cities like New York, Paris, and London.
Japanese car manufacturer Toyota has pledged to try to achieve a zero or, perhaps, even a net positive impact on the environment by the year 2050. The company plans to achieve this with several initiatives that include introducing emission-free cars, reducing water usage by reusing and recycling, using renewable energy to power their factories, and encouraging parts manufacturers to go "green."
In January 2019, a coalition of 30 oil and chemical multinational companies, including Chevron, Dow, Formosa Plastics, and Mitsubishi Chemical, announced a $1.5 billion initiative to reduce plastic waste through better recycling practices. Called the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), the group initially plans to focus their efforts on Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. According to the nonprofit environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, the four Southeastern nations, along with China, are responsible for more than 60 percent of the plastic trash in our oceans.
While the efforts by these and other companies with similar practices will go a long way in helping the environment, individuals have to do their part as well. So this Earth Day, make a pledge to do everything you can to reduce your impact on the planet. Small actions such as switching off lights and devices when not in use, biking to school instead of driving, and using reusable water bottles and lunch boxes can make a big difference.
Resources: Toyota.com, Apple.com, thenorthface.com,breakfreefromplastic.org