3 Ways NGOs Can Help Sustainable Supply Chains Grow

Maggie headshotEarlier this week, a former sustainability executive with McDonald’s delivered a wake-up call for environmental groups, listing “5 ways that NGOs stunt sustainability.” In this article, Bob Langert explains the ways that nonprofits are failing to help companies turn sustainability commitments into on-the-ground results. In the context of sustainable palm oil, he notes:

“You can’t just go after big brands and expect them to manage a supply chain that has them seven stages removed, starting with the smallholders, to mills, then plantations, to storage facilities, refineries, ingredient manufacturers and then product manufacturers, then into a final product a retailer sells, such as ice cream, a granola bar or shampoo — with palm as a minute ingredient.”

He’s right – sustainability in supply chains, especially in agriculture, is incredibly complex.

So how can environmental groups effectively champion sustainability progress throughout global supply chains, from the C-suite to crop fields?  Here are three ideas EDF has learned from deep, on-the-ground partnerships with leading brands.

  1. Get your hands dirty

In the interest of transparency, EDF and Langert go back 25 years to EDF’s first ground-breaking partnership with McDonald’s to phase out the Styrofoam hamburger clamshell. That project began when EDF staff attended McDonald’s Hamburger University, where we learned all the nitty gritty details of what makes the hamburger business tick. That insider knowledge was the foundation for understanding what strategies would work for McDonalds and for the environment.

Similarly, prior to launching our collaboration with Smithfield Foods, I spent a lot of time in eastern North Carolina, visiting grain buying locations and learning about the company’s operations. That knowledge was essential in developing a program that benefits the environment, Smithfield’s business, and crop farmers.

  1. Let science be your guide – and keep it simple

Langert notes that environmental groups tend towards “complexism” – in other words, making everything far too complicated.

Agricultural ecosystems are intricate, and sometimes we err on the side of asking too much in terms of the data that must be collected by corporations and farmers in order to measure the impacts of sustainable agriculture initiatives. But we’ve learned that there must be a balance between scientific rigor and the feasibility of data collection, or else you’re likely to end up with no data at all.

Environmental groups can and should harness science to make sustainability easier for corporations and farmers. For example, the NutrientStar program assesses the effectiveness of nitrogen efficiency tools and products on the market – all based on science. NutrientStar makes it easier for farmers to figure out what will work for their operations, and for food companies to decide what to promote to crop growers in their sourcing regions. That makes implementing sustainable sourcing projects easier, and also generates better results for the environment.


  1. Keep your eyes on the prize

EDF’s sustainable sourcing initiative is working toward an agricultural system in which sustainability is business as usual. We want to transform the entire food supply chain, not just niche markets.

When EDF announced this vision, critics said it would be impossible, given that most food companies don’t have a line of sight to grain growers. In the past few years, we’ve proven that this argument doesn’t hold water.

It’s in food companies’ interest to better understand their grain supply chains, both to meet their customers’ demands and to manage costs and future risks to their supply chains – especially those posed by climate change. With modeling developed through our collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, we are helping food companies better understand where their grain comes from and its environmental impacts and risks.

We’ve also found that companies do have the ability to assist farmers in adopting more sustainable practices – especially when you get farmers’ existing support system involved. By engaging farmers’ trusted advisors, such as agricultural wholesaler United Suppliers, and connecting those advisors to demand from food companies, we’re seeing tangible improvements from Campbell’s Soup, Unilever, Smithfield Foods, Kellogg’s, and a host of other companies.

While we still have a ways to go to reach our goal of sustainability as business as usual, we’ve seen action from companies and farmers throughout the supply chain who are willing to lead the way. That gives me hope that the prize is within reach.

Follow Maggie on Twitter – @MaggieMonast


Sustainable Supply Chains: No More Excuses

ElizabethSturcken-(2)_287x377A question for forward-thinking business executives: if you could do something that would directly reduce more than 60 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, 80 percent of water usage, and two-thirds of tropical forest loss globally… wouldn’t you do it?

The answer: yes, of course you would!  That’s why you’re forward-thinking!

That’s also why Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has been working in supply chains (for years) to improve the impacts of the global production and use of consumer goods.

Those impacts are huge. Really getting at them, unfortunately, has not been so easy. The excuse that we’ve heard over and over again boils down to “you can’t manage what you can’t see.”  Basically, while most companies’ impacts are in their supply chain, most businesses have very little knowledge of how those supply chains actually function.  And, the further up in the chains you go, the less visibility there is.

EDF has a lot of first-hand experience with this: after years of on-the-ground work with farmers, our Ecosystems team knows precisely how difficult it is to capture impacts at the farm level.  Despite the on-farm benefits of optimizing fertilizer use in cost savings, reduced greenhouse gases and increased water quality, fewer than 20 % of companies collect this data.

TSC2011lgHow do I know that statistic? Because The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) has just released Greening Global Supply Chains: From Blind Spots to Hot Spots to Action, their first-ever impact report.  It’s full of stunning data about the huge weight that consumer goods place on people and the planet. Since it covers more than 80% of consumer goods product categories, it is the comprehensive way to understand environmental hot spots in global supply chains.

Which means the “no visibility” excuse is now officially over. Read more

Mothers and CEOs: Why Corporate Sustainability Reports Matter

Walmart has just released its report on Corporate Sustainability—the “Global Responsibility Report”.

Nicknamed the GRR, the joke around my office is that “GRR” sounds like a growl—GRRRR. But while its seventy-three dense pages might seem daunting, the GRR is anything but scary. In fact, from my perspective as both a mother and someone with unique access to the day-to-day workings of Walmart, I have to say that it’s a must-read.

Why? Because like all corporate sustainability reports, the GRR tells the story of how big business is—or is not—adjusting their operations to help the planet and its inhabitants.

And by inhabitants I mean you. And me. All of us.

Meet Super-Eco-Business-Mom When new mom JENNY AHLEN feeds her daughter, she may also be pondering this question: how do we feed a global population expected to reach nine billion people by 2050? That’s because Jenny is also EDF’s team lead for their partnership with Walmart, which gives her both a unique perspective and a unique power. She knows the stakes are high for the world her daughter will grow up in. But Jenny is in a position to do something about it. Thus, she spends her days working with the world’s largest retailer trying to figure out the best approach to “fertilizer optimization”: the science behind increasing yields while reducing the environmental impacts of crop production. How did Jenny arrive at this nexus of the nursery and contemporary eco-business?

To all the mothers of the world: like you, I want the best for my child. While there are many things we can’t control about our kids’ world, we do have power over things like what goes in and on their bodies, which toys can help them learn, and how to create a safe and loving environment for them to grow. Knowing what’s in these sustainability reports means knowing whether the stores and brands we choose every day are working with us, or making our job harder.

To all the C-suite executives: See above. Mothers everywhere are starting to demand both transparency and action around creating a healthier world for our kids. We are your customers, and we’re sending you a demand signal to make us happy.  Coincidentally, it can make your business more efficient, more profitable and more resilient—all things that your shareholders will love to hear. Believe me, you want to be able to issue a sustainability report that’s both real and robust.

So if the GRR is Walmart’s report card on global responsibility, how did they do?

There’s a lot in the document, but after a quick scan of the sections that fall within my area of expertise, I’d have to say: they’re making a lot of progress—probably more than most of their peers.  Two areas that stand out are:

  1. Climate Change:
  • In their direct operations, Walmart reports that their U.S. truck fleet efficiency has doubled since 2005, eliminating 650,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases since 2015. Those numbers are impressive.
  • Outside of their own operations, it’s now fairly well known that six years ago Walmart set a goal of removing 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from their supply chain. They not only achieved but surpassed that goal—36.5 million metric tons have been removed to date. That’s the equivalent of over 39 billion pounds of coal left unburned, and that is amazing. It proves that setting audacious goals can deliver real results.
  1. Transparency and Quality of Products:
  • In 2013, Walmart committed to “reduce, restrict and remove use of high-priority chemicals using informed substitution principles”. The GRR reports that they’ve achieved a “95% reduction by weight in Walmart U.S.”. Translating that into plain English, that means a lot of things you didn't want to be in your products have been taken out. This is a big deal—and the first time that a major retailer has attempted something so daunting.

With each of these accomplishments come questions—and a realization that significant work remains.  Those fleet numbers, for example, are focused only on the trucks they own. As the mix of online versus bricks-and-mortar shopping continues to evolve, is enough being done throughout their entire transportation system to optimize efficiency?

And in terms of the chemicals: how did they arrive at that number, and where are the names of the offending chemicals? My inside sources expect that both will be released soon—to which I say “we expect nothing less”. Like any parent, I won’t think enough has been done on this issue until I can buy any product on the shelf and not worry that it could have an adverse effect on my child. When will that day come?

In any case, the few examples I’ve cited are just the tip of the GRR iceberg.  I encourage you to find yourself a comfy chair, settle in, and explore it for yourself.

But as you read, try to remember that, just as no parent is perfect, neither is any one company. My takeaway is that Walmart is sincere in its efforts to tackle the extremely complicated job of helping to make the world a better place for our children. And their approach—employing science-based processes that are scalable and focused on areas core to their business—is precisely why Walmart can lay claim to being a leader in their field.

Mothers and CEOs, take note.

Follow Jenny Ahlen on Twitter – @JennyKAhlen



Walmart Makes Progress on Its Sustainable Chemistry Policy

Behind the Label_FIt’s been two and a half years since Walmart first committed to adopting a sustainable chemistry policy. Since then, consumers, companies and advocates have been watching the retailer with interest. Today, Walmart released its ninth annual Global Responsibility Report (GRR), which outlines its environmental and social activities for the past year. For the first time, this report includes information about the progress it has made against its Sustainable Chemistry Policy adopted in 2013, which aimed for more transparency of product ingredients and safer formulations of products.

According to Walmart, it has reduced the usage (by weight) of its designated high priority chemicals by 95 percent, a pretty sizeable number. Walmart has said that it will post more specifics in the coming weeks on its Sustainability Hub, including quantitative results on all aspects of the policy’s implementation guide and details about how they achieved the substantial reduction.

casestudy-walmartWhile this is a promising step in the right direction, the GRR doesn’t identify the high priority chemicals that have been reduced. It is difficult to fully appreciate Walmart’s accomplishments without knowing the names of these chemical targets. We expect that the names of the high priority chemicals will be revealed on the Sustainability Hub.

Walmart’s announcement marks the first time a major retailer has publicly measured and shared the progress it has made against its commitment on chemicals. This is especially important to EDF because we know through research and experience that shared stories about progress can prompt others to follow, to the benefit of public and environmental health.

We believe there are three key factors that have made Walmart's progress possible: 1) the existence and use of a 3rd party-managed chemicals database that can generate quantitative, aggregate information about the chemicals on Walmart’s shelves, 2) a policy that prioritizes specific chemical targets, and 3) a time-bound business commitment to track and share progress publicly (in Walmart’s policy they committed to start sharing progress in 2016). We look forward to the day these practices reflect the business norm rather than the exception.

Market leadership will always have an important role to play alongside policy in driving safer chemicals and products into commerce. EDF looks forward to the additional details forthcoming on Walmart’s Sustainability Hub.

Follow Boma Brown-West on Twitter: @Bbrown_west

Also of interest:

It's Earth Week: Make Your (Corporate) Voices Heard

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFThis Earth Week, I want to continue the call for a new type of corporate leadership – one that allows both the planet and business to thrive.

It’s time for corporate leaders to ramp up their sustainability goals, embed sustainability across their business strategy, and most importantly, look at the positive momentum they can drive beyond the walls of their own operations. What lies beyond those walls? Their supply chain, their partners, their competitors, their consumers, and yes, even policy.

And it’s time, this Earth Day, for corporate leaders to use their voices to amplify support for smart climate and energy policy.

Today 110 companies came together to to celebrate the historic Paris Agreement, encourage investment in the low-carbon economy, and reinforce support for the Clean Power Plan. These companies know that U.S leadership is critical to making the pledges of Paris a reality and to enable the transition to a thriving, clean energy economy.

I’m encouraged by the commitments that these and other corporations have made so far this year, but also recognize the need for more private sector leadership to make progress on climate action.

Now is the perfect opportunity to step forward and align your internal sustainability strategy with your external engagement in policy, and there are many key areas that need your support.

Corporate leadership needs to step up and support smart climate policy

Paris Agreement Signing Ceremony

The biggest news this Earth Day is the Paris Agreement signing ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Paris Agreement is a monumental step forward toward turning the corner on climate change, and business can help accelerate it. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will use the signing ceremony as an opportunity to encourage business leaders to push the new agreement into action. Ki-moon hopes the influence of global business leaders will “provide for the smooth finalization of the operational details needed to give effect to the provisions of the new Agreement.”

The business community thrives when policy certainty is not dependent on political cycles. The U.S. government’s commitment was vital to the signing of the Paris Agreement; now it’s time for U.S. businesses to lead the way on implementation.

Clean Power Plan

Another important policy that needs corporate support (and action) is the Clean Power Plan, which will lower carbon emissions from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Clean Power Plan will increase access to renewable energy, create quality jobs, lower electricity bills, and reduce business risk from energy price fluctuations.  That’s why it has the backing over 365 businesses and investors.

Previously I have written about the importance of U.S business leadership for the success of the Clean Power Plan, and I’m optimistic that the Clean Power Plan will remain in effect after hearings in June. I’m also hopeful for the future of the Clean Power Plan based on the increasingly broad group of business voices that have emerged to support it over the past few weeks, including a large group of power companies, three advanced energy trade associations, and a range of  forward-thinking companies – Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. These are companies that are worth over $1.7 trillion and have stood up for smart policy in addition to creating more efficient and sustainable supply chains.


RE100, the global collaborative of companies committed to 100% renewable power, recently welcomed Bloomberg and HP into this group of influential leaders.

Nate Hurst, HP chief sustainability and social impact officer, said, “HP Inc.’s commitment to use 100% renewable electricity supports our ongoing efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions across our technology portfolio, operations, and supply chain. We know that lowering our carbon footprint is critical to our long-term business sustainability and contributes to our customers’ success.”

"By embracing the use of renewable electricity to power our operations — and encouraging companies in other industries to do the same — we demonstrate how, through innovation, we can drive business efficiencies and those of our customers and partners in a cleaner and more sustainable way."

As of this writing, 58 companies have joined the RE100 campaign, up from 36 in September 2015. You can join industry leaders like Nike, Starbucks and Walmart that have made the commitment to 100% renewable power. Make a commitment this Earth Day to go 100% renewable.

Internal Carbon Pricing

Another initiative that should not be overlooked by corporate leaders is carbon pricing. Internal carbon pricing helps companies get ahead of government policies that put a price on carbon and enables companies to be prepared when policy impacts their markets.

At COP21, the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) was launched to “expand the use of effective carbon pricing policies that can maintain competitiveness, create jobs, encourage innovation, and deliver meaningful emissions reductions.” The coalition brings together governments and business to accelerate carbon pricing around the world.

According to the Executive Guide to Carbon Pricing Leadership, report by the United Nations Global Compact, there are now more than 1,000 companies reporting that they price carbon internally or plan to do so in the next one to two years.

Global giants like Unilever and Nestle are some of CPLC’s private sector partners, but more U.S companies need to be part of the dialogue to ensure the goals of the Paris Agreement are met.

Look for a "declaration" from the CPLC on the eve of the Paris Agreement signing ceremony that asks more countries to price carbon emissions and encourages businesses to set internal prices.

"The Paris Agreement sends a powerful signal that the de-carbonization of the global economy is inevitable, that it is beneficial and it is already happening," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "Placing a price on carbon is an important element of the transformation of our world.”

Smart business minimizes risk while preparing for the future. The business leaders of tomorrow will be the ones that align their strategies with a new clean energy future.

Join the ranks of corporate leaders who are shaping policy rather than being shaped by it. This Earth Day make your sustainability voices heard loud and clear inside and outside your corporate office.

Follow Tom Murray on Twitter, @TPMurray


Why Google and the Rest of Corporate America Needs the Clean Power Plan

victoriaThe Clean Power Plan  (CPP) is topping the news as major coalitions of supporters have filed amicus briefs with the D.C. Circuit Court. With leading brands like Google, Apple, Adobe, Amazon, IKEA, Mars and Microsoft all stepping up and voicing support, you might wonder – what’s in it for them?

The plan, which will lower the carbon emissions from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, is a practical, flexible way for the U.S. to cut climate pollution and protect public health. President Obama has called it "the single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change.”

It’s encouraging to see many states, cities, power companies, public health and medical associations, and environmental organizations continue to push for smart environmental policy. The full list of Clean Power Plan supporters is here.

We are particularly excited about the range of private sector support for the Clean Power Plan.

When it’s fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan will create $155 billion in consumer savings—putting more money back into the pockets of customers. And, a successful Clean Power Plan will help companies meet their renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets.

What’s in it for Companies? The Clean Power Plan will provide:

  • Greater access to renewable energy sources. The Clean Power Plan will increase access to renewable energy by an estimated 30%. Google has already said the Clean Power Plan will help the company derive all electricity for its data centers from wind and solar.
  • Lower average electricity bills. In 2030, when the plan is fully implemented, electricity bills are expected to be about 8 percent lower than under business as usual.
  • Opportunity for job growth and investment. The CPP will drive investment in low cost clean energy technologies, creating quality jobs and positioning American business to lead the transition to a low-carbon economy.
  • Longterm price stability on energy. Companies will be able to reduce risk from energy cost uncertainty, like volatile fossil fuel prices, and improve long-term forecasting and business strategy.

The 365 companies that have previously shown their commitment to the Clean Power Plan are a step ahead. But other businesses can still catch up. This is an unprecedented opportunity for companies to align their internal sustainability goals with climate policy.

Over the past week dozens of other private sector organizations have stepped forward to support the Clean Power Plan. Leading power generators, large electricity consumers and other iconic brands all recognize the broad, society-wide benefits of the flexible approach at the heart of the Clean Power Plan.

These companies have demonstrated that there is a new bar for corporate climate leadership: standing up for specific, impactful, cost-effective policy, and stating in the brief, “policies like those embodied in the Clean Power Plan—will create a virtuous cycle of accelerated innovation, further price declines, and additional [clean energy] deployment.”

What you can do

There is still time for your company to take this next leadership step. As the hearing on the merits of the Clean Power Plan moves forward this June, here’s what you can do:

  1. Call on your state to move forward with state planning efforts to advance rigorous analysis, climate protections and new economic incentives, pollution reduction progress, and regulatory stability.
  2. Follow the Clean Power Plan case and be ready to publicly join leaders like Google, Microsoft and others in the voicing your support
  3. Set public goals to shift your power consumption to renewable sources.
  4. Share best practices around corporate sustainability.

Private sector leadership can help shape the future of energy and benefit your company, the economy and environment. The Clean Power Plan helps assure that both business and the planet can thrive.

See all the briefs in support of the Clean Power Plan here.

The chorus of corporate voices supporting smart climate policy is getting larger and louder – it’s time to join in.

The Bar for Corporate Leadership on Climate Has Been Raised

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFAs the legal briefings pile up over the Clean Power Plan (CPP), I’m inspired by the growing number of companies and business organizations standing up for the most significant step in U.S. history toward reducing climate pollution.

The bar continues to rise for companies that want to lead on sustainability, and it’s great to see companies aligning their corporate sustainability strategy and policy advocacy. Today’s corporate-led amicus briefs in support of the Clean Power Plan and smart climate policy are the latest example.

IKEA, Mars, Blue Cross Blue Shield MA and Adobe (collectively called Amici Companies) praised the EPA’s Clean Power Plan as a viable solution that will create market certainty and directly benefit their organizations. “It is important to the Amici Companies that they reduce their carbon footprints by procuring their electricity from zero- and low-emitting greenhouse gas (GHG) sources, not only to be good stewards of the environment, but to also because it preserves their economic interests.”

Tech industry leaders Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft (collectively called Tech Amici) also threw their weight behind the plan, saying, “delaying action on climate change will be costly in economic and human terms, while accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy will produce multiple benefits with regard to sustainable economic growth, public health, resilience to natural disasters, and the health of the global environment.”

These leading companies represent half a trillion dollars in revenue, demonstrating robust business sector support for the Clean Power Plan. Their filings continue the important momentum started in July 2015 by 365 companies and investors that sent letters to governors across the U.S. stating their support as being “firmly grounded in economic reality.”

Dynamic power sector voices are supporting the rule as well. Three advanced energy associations, representing a $200 billion industry, have stepped up to intervene in defending the Clean Power Plan. Numerous major power companies are also defending the rule in court: Just today, Dominion Resources filed a brief endorsing the Plan's "flexible, accommodating" approach.

In fact, leading companies argue that inaction on climate will “subject companies to unacceptable risks” — risks that force businesses to bear economic and social disruptions to their operations due to the uncertainty of future energy resources. Companies who support the Clean Power Plan are major energy consumers and purchasers; planning for future energy resourcing is critical to their long-term business strategy.

Sixty percent of the largest U.S. businesses have established public sustainability and clean energy goals. That’s fantastic, but literally billions of kilowatt hours are still needed to meet renewable energy goals. Companies no longer want to rely on unstable fossil fuels. They are looking to the Clean Power Plan to spur investment and increase reliability, energy efficiency and low-cost clean energy options. Kudos to the industry leaders that are standing up to outdated views and the false choice between business and the environment.  Real corporate sustainability leadership takes courage and a willingness to support the smart policy changes required to preserve the natural systems that people and the planet rely on.

I’m looking forward to seeing more businesses follow their lead.

EDF is tracking all Clean Power Plan case resources here.

Follow Tom Murray on Twitter: @TPMurray


With Green Bonds, Legitimacy Comes to Those Who Verify

This post is part of an EDF+Business ongoing series on sustainable finance, highlighting market mechanisms and strategies that drive environmental performance by engaging private capital. EDF is actively engaging leaders with the capital and expertise needed to catalyze sector-wide changes—from accelerating investment in energy efficiency and clean energy, to protecting tropical forests, restoring depleted fisheries and saving habitats of endangered species.

Namrita KapurGreen bonds have been hailed as a key vehicle for driving clean energy investments both before and after the signing of the Paris climate agreement. And the range of organizations utilizing them continues to diversify – Apple issued its own $1.5 billion bond last month to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for its operations. But as the pool of bonds issued each year grows, investors are increasingly concerned that clear standards are needed.

Through 2013, the World Bank was the primary issuer of green bonds. The simplicity of the market made it easier to verify the environmental benefits. As the market has grown, so has the need for institutionalizing transparency to validate the promised benefits.

While roughly two-thirds of global green bonds issued in 2015 received either third-party verification or second-party opinion, only two U.S. municipal offerings received any external review, casting doubts on the U.S. market’s credibility. Investors like insurance firm Allianz are concerned that many of the funds earmarked for sustainable development projects are not achieving the desired impact, and are calling for strong standards to help provide the market with increased certainty.

Bankers and investors are driving progress on transparency Read more

Can You Taste That Smell? Maybe You Don’t Want To.

Recently, SC Johnson took the next step in product transparency, becoming the first major player in the consumer goods industry to disclose 100 percent of fragrance ingredients for a product line – in this case, its Glade® Fresh Citrus Blossoms collection. Consumers can now see what chemicals make up these home fragrances by reading product packaging or visiting SCJ’s WhatsInsideSCJohnson.com ingredient website. Over time, the company will expand the disclosure to the rest of its air fresheners and other products.

WhatsInSCJohnsonThis is meaningful. Industry-wide, major consumer goods companies list fragrances in aggregate on an ingredient list, whereas in actuality, those fragrances are composed of many individual chemicals. Consumers deserve greater transparency.

As SCJ Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson noted, “… key to [making thoughtful ingredient choices] is continually challenging the status quo. By sharing the full ingredient list for this fragrance — all the way down to the component level — we’re going beyond the norm of even so-called ‘natural’ products.”

EDF has applauded SCJ’s efforts on fragrance disclosure in the past, and we encourage them to continue increasing transparency throughout its product line. Read more

Storytelling for Sustainability – It’s Time for Corporate Leaders to Gather ‘Round the Campfire

Nancy Buzby Environmental Defense FundThe term ‘greenwashing’ might be officially outdated. In 2016 the number of companies making unmerited PR splashes over sustainability is far outweighed by those who are taking significant strides forward and not talking about it. When faced with the science of climate change and transparency into corporate accountability in 2016, sustainability is simply part of doing business.

Yet many leading companies still shy away from fully embracing their sustainability stories.  Excellent, groundbreaking work is happening across the private sector with no-one around to hear. To re-philosophize the old saying… if a tree grows in a deforestation zone, and no one is around to hear the re-surging wildlife, does it make an impact?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Corporate sustainability has reached new heights, driven new innovations and industries, and been embedded at the core of business strategy and systems, yet there are still barriers to sharing this information publicly.

Having just surfaced from taking a deep dive into Environmental Defense Fund’s 10-year history of working with Walmart, I’m particularly focused on all the great corporate sustainability stories that need to be told. I was also encouraged to see this theme emerge at the recent GreenBiz16 conference and in their follow up article.

Companies are effectively doing a disservice by not getting such messages out there. What if your company is "walking" more than it is "talking"?

Joel Makower, Chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz

As an environmental NGO that has partnered on the ground with leading brands for over 25 years, EDF is keenly aware that companies are often doing considerably more sustainability work than they publicize. Why is this? It could be out of fear of greenwashing; fear of financial stakeholders assuming that mindshare has been taken away from the next quarter’s earnings; or perhaps fear of being perceived as irrelevant to their target audiences.

Let me quickly debunk each excuse using the theme of transparency: Read more