We all have a vested interest in taking care of the world we live in. Being good stewards of our resources – whether natural or technological – makes for better living. The word to describe this growing movement of protecting our planet, resources, and future is: sustainability. And it's a big of a concern to individuals as it is to large corporations.
In thinking about the future, many companies have set sustainability goals they aim to reach by 2025. But how can we as a society increase efficiency, minimize waste, and preserve the planet in just 5 short years?
Here’s what some prominent companies like McDonald's, Anheuser-Busch, WalMart, 3M, and others are doing to make the planet a better place and reach those sustainability goals.
Reducing, Reusing & Recycling Packaging
McDonald’s operates over 37,000 restaurants around the world, serving approximately 69 million people every day. That’s a lot of burgers to wrap and beverage cups to fill, which translates into a lot of paper and plastic.
As of 2018, McDonald’s has eliminated all foam packaging – like those traditionally used to present BigMacs to customers – from its restaurants. Today over 70% of McDonald’s packaging is made from recycled material, putting the company well on their way to achieving the goal of using 100% recycled packaging by 2025.
Another major American corporation, Anheuser-Busch, has also set a goal of using 100% recycled packaging. Currently, the company’s 12 primary breweries boast a 99.8% recycling rate. Referred to as “circular packaging,” Anheuser-Busch's commitment to reducing, reusing, and recycling minimizes waste and maximizes sustainability.
To make the biggest impact, we need the biggest businesses to get on board. WalMart is one such giant that has set sustainability goals for 2025. The nation’s largest retailer is committed to sending zero waste to the landfill and using 100% recyclable packaging for all of the private label brands it sells.
Sustainability From Seed To Sip
Sustainability includes more than recycling end products and packaging. It means being good stewards of the entire process. Many big brands are creating their own crafty definitions to convey the importance of sustainability.
For example, Anheuser-Busch has committed to protecting the environment “from seed to sip.” The beer conglomerate works with over 35,000 farmers in 13 countries to grow the corn, rice, barley, hops, and sorghum to make their brews.
Anheuser-Busch is working in conjunction with the farmers to develop best practices in land management, soil and water conservation, and creating an ongoing model for mutual success.
Over the past ten years, Anheuser-Busch has also reduced its water usage by 46 percent. That’s the equivalent of 73 billion 12oz servings of beer! The water savings is due to more than turning off the tap. Anheuser-Busch is also developing new varieties of high-yield barley that require up to 40% less water.
Despite all the cutbacks on resources, Anheuser-Busch is expanding its customer base by creating specialty beers available only to the local communities in Uganda, Impala, and Mozambique that supply Anheuser-Busch's crops of barley, corn, and sorghum.
Thanks to the partnership, regional farmers are benefiting from increased sales, Anheuser-Busch is attracting new customers for their products, and the entire operation promotes sustainable practices.
Renewable energy sources are high on the list for many manufacturing companies as they try to shrink their ecological footprints. Wind farms, once a novelty in isolated areas, are now common sites in multiple states and a great source of renewable power.
One mega-corporation, 3M (aka, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing), has partnered with Xcel Energy to use power from their wind farms to support 3M's global headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota. Now, the 409-acre campus is powered completely by renewable energy.
“3M is flipping the switch to becoming powered 100 percent by renewable energy,” says CEO Mike Roman. 3M’s 2025 goal is to source at least 50% of its total energy from renewable sources.
8 Billion People, 1 Trillion Devices?
Research from AT&T estimates that by 2025 there will be more than 1 trillion WiFi-connected electronic devices in the world. As technology advances, devices become outdated and even obsolete faster than ever before. The cutting edge phone we thought was the ultimate solution eventually gets replaced by a smaller, lighter, faster device.
So where do old cell phones, tablets, and computers go to die? The landfill. A short 25 years ago, no one imagined the challenge retired electronic devices would present for landfills and now we're finally seeing the repercussions.
Thankfully, AT&T's goal is to collect 20 million devices for recycling in 2020. By 2025, Cisco Systems – another major player in the technology and mobile device industry – plans to reduce their use of virgin plastic by 20%.
Sustainability isn’t just about consumer products and energy. It’s about ecosystems, too. In South Africa, rhino poaching has seriously threatened the survival of the species. The illegal activity has taken an enormous toll on human life, as well.
Over the years, approximately 1,000 people have died protecting wildlife from the hands of poachers in South Africa.
As of 2019, Cisco Systems and Dimension Data have joined their respective technologies to track and detect poachers. By using thermal imaging, seismic sensors, and drone cameras they’ve reduced poaching on a game preserve by 95% in one year. The two big businesses are making remarkable progress in preventing the extinction of the species.
The planet provides us with all the resources we need to live well. Thanks to strategic and innovative applications of new technologies from the largest companies on the planet, we're now able to grow while using less. That's what sustainability is all about.
What are your personal sustainability goals? Tell us about them in the comments below!