Companies Made Bigger, Bolder Commitments to Green in 2010

In 2010, U.S. corporations continued to enhance their sustainable business efforts by making bigger, bolder, longer-term sustainability commitments. Today, GreenBiz issued its 4th annual State of Green Business report. The free, downloadable report measures the progress of U.S. business and the economy from an environmental perspective, and highlights key trends in corporate culture in regard to the environment.

This year's report shows a dramatic shift is occurring in mainstream business: Companies are thinking bigger and longer-term about sustainability -- a an analysis of businesses in 2010 shows that even during economically challenging times, many companies invested more in their sustainability activities and made bold new sustainability commitments. For example:

"Companies are thinking bigger and longer-term about sustainability -- a sea-change from their otherwise notoriously incremental, short-term thinking," writes Joel Makower, Executive Editor of GreenBiz.com and principal author of the report. "And during these tough times, many have doubled down on their sustainability activities and commitments. During 2010, we saw a steady march of progress, with some of the world's biggest companies and brands putting a stake in the ground in the name of environmental (and, sometimes) social sustainability."

state of green business coverThe report follows on the in-depth daily editorial output of GreenBiz.com, tracking the big-picture sustainability trends that corporations are adopting, while also digging in to hard data to measure whether or not those companies, and the U.S. as a whole, are making any real progress.

The results, as evidenced by the GreenBiz Index, show a mixed bag: While some green practices are strongly swimming -- notably, paper use and recycling, investments in cleantech, and the growth of LEED -- there are many others that are simply treading water or sinking.

Corporate reporting is one area where U.S.-based firms are trailing behind European and Asian companies; even those companies that make the Carbon Disclosure Project's Leadership Index for the S&P 500 tend to score significantly lower than leading companies overseas.

Despite the steady advances in technologies that can make telecommuting a seamless transition, the number of remote workers in the U.S. is stuck in a rut. This trend is partly due to the ongoing weak economy: Workers believe that telework -- and being invisible in the office -- may end up costing them their jobs when layoff decisions need to be made.

And carbon intensity -- the amount of emissions generated by the energy used per dollar of GDP -- is perhaps the biggest cause for worry in the report. Although the report tracks steady year-over-year declines, the rate of improvement in reducing emissions is nowhere near what is needed to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

Indeed, throughout the report, the authors note that even in those areas where corporations are leading the charge on innovation and efficiency, there is a notable lack of political and consumer will to drive change to the next level.

The 2011 report is the centerpiece of GreenBiz.com's upcoming State of Green Business Forums. The two-day events will take place in San Francisco on February 2-3, Chicago on February 9-10, and Washington, D.C., February 16-17.

The State of Green Business 2011 is available for free download from GreenBiz.com.