Best Buy: Sustainability amidst turmoil

Best Buy has made headlines this year, and not the kind that any company wants:

Best Buy Cutting 50 Stores to Get Profitable. Good luck with that. (Forbes)

Best Buy CEO Resigns Under Cloud (Minneapolis StarTribune)

Best Buy Suffers For Lack of a Plan (New York Times)

Best Buy in Turmoil: Will It Survive? (Forbes, again)

Best Buy is losing market share to Amazon, its stock is down by 25 percent since the beginning of year (while the S&P 500 is up by 15 percent) and the company’s founder Richard Schulze stepped down as chairman because he failed to tell the board about allegations that then-CEO Brian Dunn was having an inappropriate relationship with a female employee.

Now Schulze wants to take the company private, maybe with money from Qatar. It’s more than enough to paralyze an organization or, at a minimum, distract everyone.

So how are the company’s sustainability efforts going? As it turns out…very well.

Maybe it helps that Leo Raudys, Best Buy’s senior director of environmental sustainability, previously worked in Minnesota state government, where his ultimate bosses included governors Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty.

“You spend 18 years in government, and you see elections bring people in and out,” says Raudys, who is trained as an ecologist. “You just put your head down and keep going.”

I spoke last week by phone with Raudys and George Sherman, his boss. Sherman is a senior v.p. who oversees all services at Best Buy (which includes recycling, among other things). Susan Bass Roberts, who oversees community relations, also joined the call.

What I took away from our conversation is that sustainability programs are thriving at Best Buy because they deliver real competitive advantages -- and Best Buy needs any edge that it can get these days.

“Our environmental program is built around clear business objectives,” said Sherman, who reports directly to Best Buy’s new CEO, turnaround artist Hubert Joly. ‘This is one of the crown jewels of the company. It is one of the things that we do absolutely best.”

Photograph of a Best Buy store located in Galerias Guadalajara, Mexico provided by Cal Construccion via Wikimedia Commons

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