How are regular companies embracing sustainability?


In December, I worked with our local netimpact chapter (netimpact.org) to organize a sustainability panel at the Rutger’s University Camden campus. One of the panelists was from Dupont; the chemical/engineering company. I didn’t know much on companie’s sustainability efforts and therefore decided to take Dupont as an example and study their sustainability efforts.
So here are some interesting things I found out:

1. They have fixed goals to be achieved by 2015. So both measurable and something to work towards. These goals briefly are-
1. Environmentally Smart R&D Efforts: Double investment in R&D programs with direct, quantifiable environmental benefits. Goal is set at $640 million.

2. Products that Reduce GHGs: Grow annual revenues by at least $2 billion from products that will contribute at least 40 million tonnes of additional CO2 equivalent reductions. 2007 3 products were piloted, no available updates after that.

3. Revenues from Non-Depletable Resources: Double our revenues from non-depletable resources to at least $8 billion.
4. Safety Products: Between now and 2015, introduce at least 1,000 new products or services that help make people safer globally.126 safer products and services introduced since 2007.

I think these are highly comendable goals. The key to remember is that all public companies when they do talk about sustainability very quickly add that it’s in addition to any value creation for their shareholders. The general feeling is that sustainability cannot be at the cost of shareholder’s dividends or profit. That I feel maybe the wrong attitude (but perhaps the more practical one for our times) as sustainable practices need to be practiced just because we live in a very limited world; all our natural resources are limited and it becomes more our duty and responsibility than something nice to do. It’s a thin balance they have to follow..please some customers and employees vs. not to displease shareholders. For example, Dupont states:

We work to increase shareholder value while striving for a goal of zero safety and environmental incidents. Simultaneously, we are decreasing raw material and energy inputs into our products and reducing emissions at our manufacturing sites. In 2006, we announced a new set of sustainability goals. With a target date of 2015, these include additional voluntary “footprint reduction goals,” as well as – for the first time – “market-facing goals .” Our market-facing goals identify opportunities where we will put our research and development dollars to work to develop new products and offerings that will help meet our customers’ needs and expectations for more sustainable products.

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