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Speaking Sustainably

Let business lead the way

Consumers, especially millennials, expect Corporate America to point the way in the absence of federal leadership on solutions for climate change.

If you were born after 1964, you have never experienced a colder-than-average year.

For millennials, many in the throes of parenthood, the rapid warming trend has ramifications on the future they envision for their children and grandchildren. In fact, 82 percent of millennials are worried about how climate change will affect their children’s quality of life; and they vote and buy accordingly. This generation, and the one following it, already has proven innovative when it comes to problem-solving. In short, they’ve learned that leveraging corporate America is often the fastest and most efficient path toward success.

This is good news for your organization.

While the federal government inches its way out of environmental leadership, 88 percent of Americans think the average person should be taking concrete steps to reduce his or her environmental impact. According to recent data compiled by Shelton Group, while an overwhelming number of Americans still think protecting the environment is important, these people don’t necessarily take action unless their favorite brands make it easy for them to do so. Companies should help connect Americans’ thoughts and feelings into actions, not by trying to convince consumers to change their personal behaviors to be more sustainable, but by changing their buying behaviors.

Corporate America inherently recognizes the value in sustainability, which is why 85 percent of the nation’s largest public companies reported on climate change, diversity and other sustainability issues in 2017. Ever-more vocal customers, employees and investors increasingly expect the companies they buy from to factor sustainability into their strategy and operations. In fact, 59 percent of millennials look to companies to solve social and environmental problems they feel they can’t personally address.

Leading businesses are rising to meet — and exceed — those demands.

Companies should help connect Americans’ thoughts and feelings into actions ... by changing their buying behaviors.
American businesses — driven by the majority of consumers who say a company’s environmental reputation affects their purchase decisions — can serve as influencers.

A glance at the Green Ranking list of the top 10 U.S. companies recognized for environmental performance shows no one sector is leading the charge, but a cross-section of leaders have emerged. From the most trusted information technology companies (Cisco Systems is ranked No. 1 to Apple’s No. 8) to health care companies (Johnson & Johnson, Celgene Corp) and even a few major power utilities (PG&E  and CMS Energy Corp), these corporate giants get it: Not only is sustainability a badge of honor, but green policies beget green profits. Google just announced it holds contracts to purchase 3 gigawatts of power from renewable sources, which has led to more than $3 billion in new global capital investment.

In an era when #GrabYourWallet starts to trend whenever bad guy behavior is perceived, those companies doing good for the planet earn praise, both on social media and the old-fashion kind measured by dollars and (common) sense.

So while it would be nice if the federal government stepped up and supported measures that make us more sustainable instead of rolling back fuel efficiency standards and striving for a pre-Clean Water Act/Clean Air Act environmental aesthetic, at least we can rest assured that companies that commit to big sustainability goals and communicate those goals will have a market advantage and win customer loyalty, which will benefit the environment and the consumer.

American companies care.

And they care because regardless of what generation or political party we identify with, fundamentally we all want to have a healthy environment — and we want our kids and grandkids to have one, too. 

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