Solar panels against the blue sky

Each year, business magazine and research company, Corporate Knights, ranks the top 100 most sustainable corporationsin the world. Companies are ranked based on efforts to reduce carbon and waste, revenue generated from clean products, and overall sustainability. Top U.S. honors in 2019 go to notables such as Prologis, Inc. (real estate investment trusts), McCormick & Company (food and beverage production), and Cisco Systems (communication equipment).

What the list demonstrates is that the world’s leading corporations are actively pursuing tangible, sustainable business practices. Enterprises in nearly every industry are adopting initiatives such as reducing waste, preventing pollution, using clean energy, conserving water, switching to sustainable materials, and facilitating plant growth. The result: companies are sowing sustainable business seeds for the future.

Roadblocks to Sustainability

Even so, the road to sustainability in the corporate sector is fraught with challenges. There are numerous economic, political, social-ecological, and cultural barriers to implementing sustainable practices. For instance, corporations in certain industries are still dragging their heels to prioritize the environment over the market economy. One of the least environmentally friendly sectors — the fashion industry— still uses toxic chemicals, produces synthetic fabrics, and has yet to do anything about the massive piles of waste in landfills.

In addition, many companies have yet to see their role in improving social, economic, and political conditions within their communities. Even businesses that make the effort to adopt corporate social responsibility (CSR) do so at the risk of closing their doors for good. Many organizations may not survive needed changes in worker conditions, carbon footprint reduction, or using alternative sources for production. In addition, companies also need to turn the tide of consumer criticism from an emerging market that is more focused on CSR initiatives.

Lastly, some companies are still utilizing 20th-century technology to address 21st-century issues. Even in 2019, various industries are still threatenedby digital transformation, automation, AI, machine learning, and advanced sustainable tech solutions. Corporations are still clinging to outdated machines and equipment, archaic power sources, and inefficient practices. The advancement of technology creates challenges in accounting, healthcare, communication, construction, engineering, finance, cybersecurity, transportation, food service, and education.

What are companies doing to break through these barriers? Let's profile three organizations and explore how they are advancing sustainable business practices.

Trucks, Chips, and Cola: Peterbilt’s Winning Eco-Partnerships

Just a few weeks ago, Peterbilt Motors delivered the first Model 220 EV medium-duty truckto PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division. Introduced back in January 2019 in Las Vegas, the zero-emission Frito-Lay 220EV features a range of over 100 miles and a recharge time of up to three hours. Although it’s not the first model to be developed by Peterbilt, it marks yet another step toward full fleet electrification by a major manufacturer.

Peterbilt’s advancement of electric vehicles is part of a long-standing partnership with Frito-Lay and PepsiCo. The client is the first to use the 220EV as part of its aim to reduce PepsiCo's overall greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20% by 2030. Furthermore, Frito-Lay plans to replace its entire diesel-based fleet with zero-emission trucks as part of a larger environmental project.

While some business owners may be concerned about the cost versus value of electric vehicles, there is no doubt that they are beneficial in an industry where carbon emission rates are still staggeringly high. Electric fleets come at just the right time as state and federal lawmakers are sorting out regulations for electric vehicles, self-driving vehicles, and their safety, effect on the industry, and environmental impact.

IKEA: Creating Better Everyday Life Through Corporate Social Responsibility

On the outset, IKEA would seem to represent the corporate America that eco-conscious consumers have to come to despise: massive brick-and-mortar stores that take up an entire city block (or two) filled with needless merchandise geared toward the upper-middle-class lifestyle. However, IKEA has found a way to balance brilliant marketing and mass production with corporate social responsibility (CSR). Since 2012, the company has made significant strides in supporting local communities, employee empowerment and education, and gender/race equality. Furthermore, they have worked to reduce energy consumption and increase sustainable sourcing.

Though IKEA’s list of current CSR effortsis exhaustive, highlights include global child advocacy, charity investment and partnerships (UNICEF, Save the Children), corporate transparency, and equal 48% management rate among women and minorities. They also adopt wind & solar energy use and investments, disaster relief, numerous 100% recyclable products, relief for refugees, and worldwide financial support for farmers.

"We all share basic needs: a secure home, good health, a regular income, a desire to keep our children safe, to see them get a good education and succeed in life," states IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad. “That's why the IKEA Foundation has decided to focus our funding on these key necessities." This level of commitment has allowed IKEA to form partnerships with some of the world’s leading organizations, including the United Nations Global Compact.

Prologis: Embracing Solar Energy on a Large Scale

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released its seventh annual Solar Means Business Reportlast year. The report ranks companies that consistently demonstrate the highest level of commitment to solar energy. Coming in at number eight is Prologis, the San Francisco-based industrial real estate investment trust company.

Sustainability and environmental stewardship have long been a front-burner goal of Prologis almost since the company's inception in 1983. Currently, the organization’s green initiativesare impressive: 186 MW of solar energy installations, 374 sustainable building certifications, and 88% efficient lighting 42% cool/reflective roofing across all facilities. In addition, Prologis also launched its Green Bondprogram back in March 2018, making it the first industrial real estate program to reach this milestone.

Prologis’ recent environmental objectives have included new building development that meets 100% of sustainability ratings, 100% energy-efficient lighting across all operations, and 200 MW of total solar power by 2020. They also became the first real estate company with an approved Science Based Target(SBT) for sustainability.

Today, more companies have a better understanding of the effects they have on society and the environment. As a result, they are creating business strategies that make a positive impactin all areas of sustainability.


Regardless of the challenges, companies are surging forward as they address issues such as environmental degradation, inequality, and social injustice. In the process, they are finding that sustainability can drive business success, not hinder it. It can create a win-win for the global community.