Best Buy: Thinking outside the big box

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

Whether it's exhibiting leadership in the electronics recycling space, setting carbon footprint reduction goals, implementing environmental management systems at 1,400 retail stores or participating in federal environmental policy legislation, Best Buy has become a force in the world of environmental sustainability.

I had the opportunity to hear firsthand about the consumer electronics giant's innovative work from Leo Raudys, Best Buy's senior environmental sustainability director. Raudys took the job four years ago to be involved in some groundbreaking environmental work. He spoke with me at length about his team's internal and external work, including strategic partnerships and a recent ISO 14001 certification.

With electronics recycling, for example, Best Buy realized most customers coming into their stores are replacing old products, so it set up recycling kiosks in the front of all of their stores. Best Buy accepts electronics at no cost to consumers, regardless of where the items originally were purchased. As a result, Best Buy recycled more than 21 million units just last year.

"People have this old technology," Raudys explains. "It really doesn't matter where it was purchased. What matters is that they find the right place for it to be recycled. It's a big consumer problem. We feel that it is both our obligation to our customers from an environmental perspective but also as a customer service to offer this service."

To assure products are being properly recycled, Best Buy has partnered with three nationally recognized recyclers and requires that they hold third party standards, such as R2 and e-Stewards certification.

Best Buy also partners with the DOE and EPA's Energy Star Program to reduce electronics' energy use. Fun fact: A television today is three times as efficient as it was five years ago because of Energy Star.  

In terms of their carbon footprint reduction work, Best Buy became in 2011 one of the original 14 members to join the White House Better Buildings Challenge, which challenges companies in the private sector to reduce energy consumption as a way to address climate change. In 2010, Best Buy set a goal to reduce absolute emissions by 20 percent by 2020. By the end of 2012, the company had reached 75 percent of that goal and was recognized by the Carbon Disclosure Project with 96 "A" rating

The company also ISO 14001 certification for its 1,400 hundred stores in June 2012.

"Through this environmental management system, we hold ourselves accountable by the way we interact with the environment," Raudys says. "It is a process of continuous improvement. To my knowledge, we are the only national retailer to have achieved this for all stores."

So the future looks bright for Best Buy's sustainability work. Raudys is seeing more innovation in design, greater materials re-use, a dramatic increase in LED lighting and remote sensors and much more.

George Papoulias edited this podcast.

Image courtesy of Best Buy.