If you think the global debt crisis is sobering, what would happen if businesses were asked to pay for the estimated $72 trillion in natural resources that the United Nations figures they use for free?
A group of 24 powerful companies that collectively generate more than $500 billion in annual revenue isn't waiting around for the answer. Building on a challenge issued last October at the Clinton Global Initiative, they are taking proactive steps to repay their debt to the planet.
These actions are part of an overall business strategy. One example of this mindset comes from General Motors, which disclosed Tuesday that 100 of its facilities are now landfill-free. In 2011, the company recycled or reused about 2.6 million metric tons, or about 38 million trash bags full of garbage.
"Our landfill-free program continues to strengthen our business by creating efficiencies, generating revenues and inspiring innovation with products made from recycled content," said Mike Robinson, GM's vice president of Sustainability and Global regulatory affairs.
Another illustration comes from paper goods company Kimberly-Clark, which Monday pledged to reduce the amount of wood fiber it sources from natural forests by 50 percent by 2025. Kimberly-Clark points to two big reasons for its commitment: to address the issue of deforestation and to mitigate pricing risks.
"This broad, new initiative will help protect biodiversity and reduce the impacts of fiber that the company uses while ensuring the fiber is sourced in an environmentally and socially responsible way," the company said in a statement. "Equally importantly, the initiative will also help insulate the company from continuing volatile price fluctuations in the world fiber market."
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