#3: Sustainability: crazy moves

Mirjam Donáth
31 March 2023

In this post, we take a step back from our sustainability goals and look at companies that have made some notoriously bold moves to help the planet.

In our previous post, we touched upon the importance of looking around and learning from other companies' sustainability achievements. In this post, we take a step back from that goal and first look at the companies who have made some notoriously bold moves to help the planet. These examples are not specifically to follow suit right away, but to see that even the “impossible” has already been done. 

Getting inspired is essential. Today you might be a weekend runner, informed by your doctor that without running more often, your life expectancy decreases. So, you want to take up running every other day, but even the thought of it feels terribly painful. Then you watch a movie about average people running the ultra-marathon, and just watching them makes your 30 minutes daily run look like a cakewalk. 

Below are some mind-blowing actions of the “ultra-marathon runners” of sustainability:
1. Boycotting unethical ways of revenue generating
Patagonia, the American company designing outdoor clothes and gears, is a strong brand with an approximately 10% profit margin (according to The New York Times’ report in September 2022). Patagonia has been boycotting paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram since June 2020. Standing up for the company’s strong principles about “being in business to save our home planet”, Patagonia finds the social media giant fell short of stopping hate speech and the spread of misinformation on democracy and climate change. Patagonia admits that the move had negatively affected its sales, but claims that the challenge has made them more creative about how to grow their community. (It’s also worth checking out their use of social media and seeing the complete lack of product-led advertising.) 

“We encourage other businesses to join us in pushing Facebook to prioritize people and planet over profit,” wrote Patagonia CEO, Ryan Gellert in November 2021.

2. Not shying away from your beliefs
Living sustainably is a personal choice. Building a sustainable business model can differ in scope from reaching the goal of being carbon free within one's working environment to trying to make a bigger impact on the entire society. The latter almost undoubtedly will involve hardcore politics. Patagonia -- a company that doesn't know limits when it comes to protecting the planet -- even gets involved in politics. In 2017, when President Donald Trump slashed national monuments in Utah (protected lands of two million acres) to open new mineral and oil and gas leasing opportunities, the company joined a coalition of Native American tribes and conservation groups in suing the President. (In 2021, President Joe Biden restored the protection.)

While opinions in any political matter differ there is a take away from Patagonia’s lawyer, Robert Tadlock’s message: “We haven’t shied away from making our beliefs known, and I don’t think we’re going to get shy now.” No matter what your belief is in regards to going green, standing up for it will always have a brand-strengthening and trust-building effect.
3. Spending profit at the right place
Ikea is one of the world’s top wood users, as it's the largest furniture brand. The company claims that it uses only Forest Stewardship Council certified and recycled wood already, and now it has also been purchasing and managing forest lands across the world. The hope is to use its own wood in the future.

“The afforestation business… is a long-term investment that consolidates our business while also positively impacting the climate through the absorption of CO2 during the forests’ growth,” Krister Mattsson, head of Ingka Investments (Ikea’s main retailer) said in a statement.

While Ikea does not yet use wood from its own forests in production, it already plants pines that are resilient to the effects of climate change and supports habitat for endangered plants and animals.

4. Sharing a green solution widely (or wisely)
Electric car-maker Tesla made its high-profile patents on electric vehicle technology freely available in 2014. Toyota and Ford shortly followed suit. As a consequence by 2019 the number of sold electric cars has grown to more than two million from fewer than half a million in 2014. It was both a smart move (building a bigger market for the wider adoption of electric cars) and a useful one (speeding up the journey to a fully electric future).

CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of petrol cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.”
5. (Once you made it) giving it all away for the green cause
Patagonia… once again because it pulled off the boldest act of environmental activism yet: in September 2022 it gave away the $3 billion company to a trust directing the earnings of a still for-profit company to fight the environmental crisis.

“Earth is now our only shareholder,” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote in an open letter.

These are just some of the many bold examples of companies taking very radical actions or pivots towards sustainability. Although we understand that these might not be possible for most organizations, seeing the extreme can make us feel more comfortable taking the first steps on our own, too. In our next articles, we will take a look at how you can capitalize on synergies with already existing diversity and inclusion initiatives, and how a socially responsible organization is (or should be) by default a diverse and sustainable one as well.

If you and your organization are ready to take the first steps and would like to partner with us in finding the best talent for a more sustainable future, click on the button below, and we'll be happy to discuss things further!
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