When we think “green company” what companies come to mind? Patagonia, Stonyfield Farms, and now even WalMart. But there are hundred of corporations (if not thousands) that deserve to be called out for the amazing business practices they have engaged in over recent times. If you are a corporation in operation in the USA today and you do NOT have a sustainability strategy or program in place, you may not be around past the next decade. That’s the hard truth. All eyes are on the companies that are quickly retooling to operate using less, while simultaneously producing longer lasting products, with little to NO environmental impact. What was once a lofty, green dream is now increasingly a reality.
As a consultant to companies on sustainable strategy, I am often asked who is REALLY making the transition to become a social and environmentally responsible and even forward thinking business. The nature of my work offers me privileged access to a variety of men and women who lead green initiatives at companies small and large across the country, and provides opportunities to meet and hear fist hand from those who are driving real change in corporations. I am always encouraged to see the authenticity that lives in the hearts and minds of these individuals who have moved well beyond “green” marketing into real innovative solutions. These are company leaders who understand conscious capitalism and the shift from a shareholder- to a stakeholder-centric business model.
So when these companies are validated by a national publication as noteworthy as “Newsweek,” I am pleased and proud. This month, “Newsweek” printed its annual list of green companies, which can be accessed at http://greenrankings.newsweek.com/.
As I viewed the rankings, there are many companies listed on the roster that we may not identify with being part of the green evolution; it is good to see that those companies heralded are those that have traditionally been associated with producing waste, such as Starbucks, Staples, McDonalds, Avon, Proctor and Gamble, Coca Cola,
Colgate-Palmolive, Clorox and Hewlett Packard (HP), meaning the sustainable change is clearly taking place. And personally exciting for me is the inclusion of Mohawk Industries, a company that I have had the opportunity to work closely with over the last several years.
A major player in the carpet and flooring industry, Mohawk is one of the largest recycler in its industry –no easy feat, particularly when you are a $7 billion corporation with over 30,000 employees. Mohawk boasts relationships with over 40,000 customers, including all of the mass merchandisers and home centers that come to mind when you think of residential and commercial buildings. You can imagine that the company’s environmental footprint could be quite large,but given its strict attention to saving resources (water, energy and waste management), Mohawk is a trailblazer among many manufacturers in the U.S. The next time you are walking across the floor, take an opportunity to notice what’s below:there is a good chance is will contain recycled content, or in the case of Mohawk’s Everstrand fiber, it could be made from 100% recycled soda and water bottles. Mohawk recycles over 3 billion bottles a year in its Summerville, Georgia PET recycling and fiber extrusion facility, making the company the largest recycler of PET1 in North America. In fact, nearly 1 in every 4 bottles recycled goes into Mohawk carpet products. And if you are walking across commercial floors, every one of them is Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus certified for low VOC (volatile organic compounds) emitting, making the carpet and the interior spaces it occupies healthier for all.
Mohawk is also a leading member of a very unique industry association called CARE (Carpet America Recovery Effort). The organization was Formed in 2002 by the Carpet and Rug Institute and the Environmental Protection agency to ensure that hundreds of millions of pounds of carpet are diverted from landfills and recycled back into carpet or other useable products each year. And in 2007,Mohawk launched the GreenWorks carpet recycling facility in Eton, Georgia to tackle this issue internally. Through key dealer and installer partnerships, as well as those with other recyclers across the nation, Mohawk recycles millions of pounds of carpet each year and expects to grow that number, along with the rest of the industry, to meet CARE goals. As of 2008, more than 1.3 billion pounds have been collectively diverted through CARE partnerships. (visit www.mohawkgreenworks.com)
But you don’t have to be a corporate giant in order to have an impact. Thousands of small business and corporation across this country are going green and may not show up on the Newsweek rankings. In my recent travels I have spent time with leaders of green at fortune 500’s, such as Bonnie Nixon of Hewlett Packard, and also smaller business owners who have dedicated their professional lives to changing the ways products are created and sold, including John Stein, CEO of Kirei USA (www.kireiusa.com), a manufacturer of boarding and panels made materials such as bamboo and wheat. and Jeff Mendelsohn, CEO of New Leaf Paper (www.newleafpaper.com), a company that provides environmentally sound paper and promotes it as a viable alternative to the past choices of paper products which have a heaving burden on our forrest.
Interestingly both of these men are avid surfers. It calls to mind another corporate hero of mine who even wrote a book about his dedicated to work life balance for his company employees called Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia. Coincidence? Perhaps not.