Best Buy is a $50.3 billion Fortune 500 consumer electronics retailer headquartered in Richfield, Minn. The company employs 180,000 and operates approximately 4,186 stores throughout the U.S., Europe, Canada, China and other international regions. In their 2011 Sustainability Report, Best Buy maintains: "As the world's largest consumer electronics retailer, we take our economic, social and environmental responsibilities very seriously." Heather King talks to CEO Brian J. Dunn about advances in energy management for Best Buy and Best Buy customers, working with suppliers to reuse 183 million pounds of recycled parts, and the opportunity to become the primary 'mechanic' to the e-vehicle market.
Heather King: In your discussion with GreenBiz's Marc Gunther you attributed your increased sustainability efforts to your employee base. Are there other significant factors driving your environmental sustainability strategy?
Brian J. Dunn: Our customers are a key driver. We help our customers navigate choices - choices that largely concern technology. Today, there are not an overwhelming number of consumers who make their decisions based on end-to-end sustainability. But, I believe sustainability will become a key differentiator. As the father of three boys, I'm growing increasingly concerned about what kind of planet we are leaving our kids.
Until now, our customers have been mostly concerned with recycling. More and more, we are being asked about packaging, energy audits, and cradle-to-cradle products. Our brands team is working on how used components can find new life in new products. Such reuse is a major focus in discussions with our OEMs who manufacture all that we sell.
HK: Let's hear more about how you are working with your suppliers. Are you using a scorecard like Wal-Mart to assess your suppliers?
BJD: I'm very aware of Wal-Mart's scorecard. Our attitude is a little different. We are more partnership focused with our vendors. We are taking a holistic cradle-to-cradle approach, working with our manufacturers on everything from how they source materials to how they re-use the 183 million pounds of recycled electronics we collect. Our top 10 suppliers represent a disproportionate amount of our items sold, so we are putting the most effort there.
We are working with Sustainability Consortium and other industry groups to support major suppliers like Dell, HP, Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Toshiba in their pursuit of closed loop, cradle-to-cradle solutions. Ultimately, it is critical to embed sustainability in the business model. It has to be efficient and effective because people aren't going to pay $20 more for a television. You have to be able to offer cradle-to-cradle products without asking the customer to fund your R&D.
One way in which we are influencing manufacturers is through our Exclusive Brands -- Insignia, Dynex, Init and Rocketfish. These are products we develop for our own stores. We work with manufacturers to create these products. This enables us to better control how they are made and packaged. Through these brands we can demonstrate leadership in sustainable practices.
In any given week, I'm having a couple of top-to-top discussions with CEOs of big partners. The topic of sustainability always comes up: what we're doing, what we need to do, where we think the consumer sits. I can tell you that the supply chain is listening. They recognize that the sustainability wave is coming. Since we're the ones riding with the consumer, we're in the best position to help OEMs develop better products for our shelves and all the ways we connect with customers.
HK: As you scan your broad array of product lines, what areas are most promising?
BJD: It's hard for me to identify one or two because we're really working on a wide range of technology and service solutions, from Energy Star appliances, to Geek Squad energy audits. I love that we're bringing smart thermostats and similar smart devices that give people pragmatic ways to live more sustainably. Given the current economic uncertainty, people are striving for security and comfort, so anything we can do to provide solutions in the 10 miles around them that makes a difference in their lives is a good thing. Although smart meters may seem a small thing given the scale of our world's challenges, I think it's important. We're teaching people to start to climb the sustainability ladder.