Over the weekend, a sustainability-focused Wall Street Journal article started making the rounds on social media. In it, business columnist John D. Stoll notes that several top companies are starting to pump the brakes on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs due to economic strain amidst the coronavirus pandemic. And he poses the question: Will the pandemic, like economic crises before it, put sustainability on the back burner?
It’s undeniably true that companies are cutting costs in the face of financial strain, and given that we’re all on information overload, it’s understandable to assume ESG cutbacks are happening across the board. But we at TriplePundit have a slightly different vantage point: Since we report on these topics daily, people love sharing their sustainability news with us — and, overall, the drumbeat of these announcements has remained relatively steady through the pandemic.
Right now we’re all understandably consumed with the human suffering and economic strain posed by the pandemic. Business leaders are worried for their families, wondering how they’ll maintain their payrolls, and grappling with how best to respond to this new global challenge we face. But we’re not convinced we’ll see a sunsetting of sustainability — and these eight examples are just some of the reasons why.
General Mills commits to 100 percent renewable energy globally by 2030
General Mills committed to a set of science-based emissions targets ahead of the COP21 climate talks in 2015, where world leaders drafted the landmark Paris climate agreement. The company was among the first to have its plan approved by the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) — indicating its goal to reduce value chain emissions by 28 percent by 2025 aligns with the global effort to limit temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.
In late April, General Mills took its climate action journey a step further, pledging to source 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and join the RE100 corporate clean power initiative. The company says it will invest in renewable energy projects across its supply chain — including two large-scale wind farms which will produce renewable energy credits (RECs) and methane capture for power generation at supplier farms — to meet the goal.
Evian goes carbon neutral globally
Danone was another major multinational to issue new climate pledges during the COP21 talks in 2015. The French food products firm pledged to be certified carbon neutral across all of its operations by 2050 — and its flagship spring water brand, Evian, was to lead the charge.
We first reported on Evian’s carbon neutrality journey two years later, in 2017, when the brand unveiled its revamped bottling plant in the French Alps that was certified carbon neutral by the Carbon Trust. Since then, Evian has achieved carbon neutrality certification for its operations in the U.S., Canada, Germany and Switzerland. And on April 20, it went global, inking carbon neutral certification across all the countries where it has a presence. It’s a milestone in the journey, but it’s far from the end of the road, as Global Brand VP Shweta Harit says Evian is looking forward to announcing “new initiatives later this year.”