Looking for a job you can feel good about? Work for a company that leads the way in sustainable business practices and innovations. When you’re employed by an organization that values corporate and social sustainability, you can rest assured that you’ll be working on a worthwhile mission, while also benefiting from sustainable human resources practices.
Wondering who these corporate superstars of sustainability are, and how can you get a job working for them? We’ve compiled a list of companies that are leaders in sustainability and offer careers you can be proud of.
Global Business Leaders in Sustainability
True corporate sustainability can be hard to achieve. As the authors of SustainAbility’s Model Behavior: 20 Business Model Innovations for Sustainability point out, executives are often hesitant to change their business models due to a vested interest in the current approach. That said, many global corporations have recognized the value of sustainable business, and are doing their best to create a new paradigm of enterprise.
- BAE Systems: BAE Systems is a defense, security and aerospace company with an international scope. In 2010, BAE Systems was awarded a Seal of Sustainability Award from the Sustainable Business Institute (SBI) for its efforts to:
- Reduce utility and energy consumption.
- Implement recycling and water conservation efforts.
- Install alternative/renewable energy systems.
In addition to its work on hybrid electric technologies, BAE has developed an Environmental Sustainability Maturity Matrix (ESMM) that provides a road map for its businesses to improve their environmental performance. It also monitors its global carbon footprint on an annual basis.
- GE: Ranked #59 on the 2014 Global 100 Index and #5 on the 2013 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Sustainability Leaders Survey, GE has been repeatedly recognized for its sustainability. The company has a number of ambitious sustainability goals. In its 2012 Sustainable Growth Report, GE noted that it had:
- Reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 32 percent from its 2004 baseline.
- Improved energy intensity by 32 percent against its 2004 baseline.
- Reduced freshwater use by 46 percent from its 2006 baseline.
As the world’s resources dwindle and urban living increases, GE is increasingly focusing its efforts on clean technology research and development. Its Ecomagination program was created to develop environmentally sound products and solutions.
- Interface: Interface is the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of modular carpets. It ranked #3 in the 2013 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Sustainability Leaders Survey. As part of its commitment to achieving a zero environmental footprint by 2020 (Mission Zero), Interface has:
- Reduced its GHG emissions from 2.8 pounds of CO2e per square yard (1996) to 0.8 pounds per square yard (2013).
- Increased its use of recycled and biobased materials to 49 percent of all of its raw materials as of 2013.
- Reduced its waste to landfill ratio from 12.5 million pounds (1996) to 1.2 million pounds (2013).
- Novelis: Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Novelis is the largest producer of rolled aluminum sheet and a major player in beverage can recycling. In 2013, it:
- Sourced 43 percent of its aluminum from recycled materials, with the goal of reaching 80 percent by 2020.
- Improved energy efficiency by nearly 20 percent since 2011.
- Introduced the evercan, an independently certified, high-recycled content aluminum beverage can sheet.
Novelis is currently working to create a circular business model with closed-loop manufacturing, sustainable product development and 0 percent waste heading to a landfill.
- Novo Nordisk: The Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk consistently places near the top of sustainability rankings. In 2014, it was #7 on the Global 100 Index. (Novo Nordisk came in first in 2012). In addition, it came in at #14 on the 2013 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Sustainability Leaders Survey. Novo Nordisk has:
- Signed the 2014 Trillion Tonne Communique, an international call for global policies and actions to tackle climate change. (It is a signatory on all six Communiques.)
- Become the first pharmaceutical company in the world to publish an Environmental Profit and Loss (E P & L) account.
- Ceased using live animals for quality testing of existing products.
- Integrated sustainability into its annual report since 2004.
Novo Nordisk also has a strong code of corporate ethics. As a producer of approximately half the world’s insulin, it continues to provide insulin to LDCs (least developed countries) at a maximum of 20 percent of the average price in the Western world.
- Pantagonia: Based in Ventura, California, Patagonia is a manufacturer of high-end outdoor apparel. It appears on both the 2014 GameChangers 500 list and the 2013 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Sustainability Leaders Survey (with an impressive second place ranking). It is currently:
- Using environmentally-conscious fibers (e-fibers) in manufacturing.
- Promoting fair labor practices and safe working conditions throughout its supply chain.
- Donating one percent of sales to support environmental organizations around the world.
Patagonia is actively discussing its role in a responsible economy, challenging the idea that increased consumption of the world’s resources is necessary for prosperity.
- Unilever: Ranked #1 on the 2013 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Sustainability Leaders Survey (the third consecutive year it has receiver this honor), global consumer goods company Unilever continues to rack up awards for its sustainability efforts:
- 2012 World Business and Development Award (WBDA) for efforts to improve living standards in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities.
- 2013 Gold Medal for International Corporate Achievement in Sustainable Development from the World Environment Center.
- Fifth place ranking in Carbon Clear’s 2013 ranking of carbon measurement and reporting practices of FTSE 100 companies.
In 2010, Unilever launched its Sustainable Living Plan. Recognizing that the world’s resources are under immense strain, Unilever has committed itself to decoupling growth from environmental impact and increasing its positive social impact.
- Waste Management: As its name suggests, Waste Management is a waste management and environmental services company serving more than 20 million customers in the U.S. and Canada. It offers a variety of recycling services for businesses and residential consumers. Waste Management is currently investing time and resources into:
- Bioreactor landfills with technology that accelerates the decomposition of organic waste.
- New recycling technologies that convert organic materials into high-end compost.
In addition, by recovering naturally occurring gas inside landfills, Waste Management generates more than twice the amount of renewable electricity produced by the entire U.S. solar industry.
Sustainable Business Leaders Serving Developing Countries
The developing world is a place of vibrant innovation. Here are a few examples of organizations that are putting imagination to good use:
- iKure: iKure is dedicated to providing health care to India’s poor with the help of cutting-edge technology. First, the company establishes rural health centers (RHCs) and free health camps staffed by full-time doctors, pharmacists and health officers. Then, iKure uses proprietary software called the Wireless Health Incident Monitoring System (WHIMS) to link these RHCs with urban hospitals for life-saving medical care, consultation and escalation.
- iKure opportunities
- MicroEnsure: Named to the GameChangers 500 in 2014, Micro Ensure supplies over four million people in developing countries with inexpensive insurance; 80 percent of these low-income customers have never before been insured. Its offerings include crop, micro-health, political violence and mobile insurance. In 2014, MicroEnsure was recognized as the Best Micro Insurance Provider in Africa at the fourth MobileMoney Africa Expo awards.
- MicroEnsure careers
- WaterCredit: WaterCredit is the offspring of the nonprofit Water.org. Its goal is to tackle lack of access to safe water and sanitation, as well as lack of funds needed to obtain these necessities. With WaterCredit, individuals and households in developing countries can apply for microfinance loans (the average loan size as of 2014 is $185) that enable them to obtain safe water and toilets. Since 2003, WaterCredit has made $47 million in loans with a global repayment rate of 99 percent.
- Water.org careers
Bonus: Regional Sustainable Business Leaders
Smaller businesses often have more flexibility than big corporations to make changes. These six companies, based in the United States, are exploring new ways to create a sustainable future:
- Kleinpeter Farms Dairy
- Lehigh Technologies
- Puroast Coffee
- SPUD (Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery)
- TOMS Shoes
For more options in sustainable careers, you might consider companies honored by:
- The Global 100 Index, an annual ranking of the top 100 companies on a global sustainability equity index.
- GameChangers 500, a ranking of the world’s top purpose-driven businesses.
If you’d prefer a career with a nonprofit, check out our annotated list of 14+ World-Class Sustainability Internships, which includes information on organizations such as Ceres, BSR, WRI and more.