Amazon’s big opportunity: Transparency in sustainability

At Environmental Defense Fund, we believe that environmental progress and economic growth can and must go hand in hand. EDF+Business works with leading companies and investors to raise the bar for corporate sustainability leadership by setting aggressive, science-based goals; collaborating for scale across industries and global supply chains; publicly supporting smart environmental safeguards; and, accelerating environmental innovation.

This is the fifth in a series of interviews exploring trends in sustainability leadership as part of our effort to pave the way to a thriving economy and a healthy environment.

Over the past few years, Amazon’s sustainability team has been busy setting ambitious goals on renewable energy, making their voice heard on smart environmental policies, and leveraging their expertise in technology to drive innovation that can benefit the planet – and boost profits.

I recently chatted with Kara Hurst, head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon and former CEO of The Sustainability Consortium, about how innovation and environmental goals intersect at Amazon, the launch of the new Amazon Sustainability Question Bank, and how sustainability issues could play a role in deciding the next Amazon headquarters (HQ2).

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Why Walmart’s Carbon Commitment Can Make Such a Difference

Archimedes said “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth,” when explaining the principle of levers.

Leverage is the big news about Walmart’s announcement today. The company has committed to reducing 20 million metric tons of carbon pollution from its products’ lifecycle and supply chain over the next five years. That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 3.8 million cars.

So is Walmart moving the earth? No, not yet. But this is precisely the kind of innovative approach to reducing carbon pollution that we need right now. Environmental Defense Fund worked closely with Walmart to craft this goal and project that makes the most of what Walmart can uniquely do to cut carbon pollution across the globe.

This commitment is bold because: Read more

Green innovation: Alive and well, even in a tough economy

IR graphicNext Tuesday, EDF will release the second annual Innovations Review at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference.

The Innovations Review is our survey of the most compelling — and implementable — new practices and technologies that generate environmental and business benefits for companies.

The Review team has been toiling away for months looking for advances in water conservation, packaging, supply chain management, IT and more. In the back of all our minds is the question: Given state of the economy, is environmental innovation still a viable use of company resources?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” We looked at nearly 200 examples of new environmental practices across industries and sectors. We narrowed this pool down to a final slate of 15, based four criteria: environmental benefits, business benefits, replicability and innovativeness.

These 15 represent a broad range of innovations. Some can lower operating costs or drive sales or strengthen the brand. Others create new markets, reduce risk or stake out leadership positions. If taken to scale, all offer huge benefits for the environment.

Innovations featured in last year’s Review included:

Fireman’s Fund’s Green-Guard insurance, special coverage for green-certified commercial buildings.

Telepresence systems—offered by Cisco and HP—the next generation of video conferencing that can virtually eliminate the need for business travel.

Solar power purchase agreements, financing tools that are allowing Target, Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Microsoft, among many others, to equip their buildings with solar panels at no capital cost to the company.

Truck engine controls that cap truck speed to reduce fuel consumption. Staples put a 60-mile per hour ceiling on its truck fleet, resulting in a 15% increase in fuel economy.

To download the 2008 report, click here. And watch for the next installment on April 21.