From the July/August 2011 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine

Greener Frontiers

Cutting-edge companies like NRG, Jones Lang LaSalle, SAP, VF Corp. and Starbucks are moving past recycling and energy efficiency and embarking on more ambitious efforts to address climate change.

Steve CornelliMany, if not most, major companies are doing something to cut their greenhouse gas emissions—reducing their use of electricity perhaps, or starting a recycling program. But cutting-edge businesses are rising to another level—taking more ambitious and sophisticated steps to address the rise in global temperatures caused by climate change. Concerned about an array of issues, from the excessive use of water at suppliers’ plants and potential risks posed by government regulation to an increasing investor focus on climate change, companies are venturing beyond the tried-and-true. They’re trying new strategies that range from producing a trailblazing sustainability report to helping farmers participate in carbon offset exchanges or changing the firm’s very business model. “These companies recognize the serious business risks to the long-term sustainability of the company,” says John Jarrett, director of research at GovernanceMetrics International. “With world resources becoming increasingly limited, they see the imperative of addressing issues that previously weren’t even on the radar screen.” Here’s what five such companies are doing.(NRG's Steve Corneli, left)

 

Scott BolickSAP: Realizing a Big Opportunity

For SAP, sustainability is an internal goal, a topic for reporting and a business opportunity. The software giant’s work to cut greenhouse emissions and report on those efforts helped it spot a different market niche. And the software vendor it acquired to target that opportunity helped the company create a new type of sustainability report.

WebsterVF Corp.: The Multiple Brands Challenge

How do you create a sustainability strategy for a holding company with more than 30 apparel brands under its belt?

Lauralee MartinJones Lang LaSalle:  Greening Real Estate

About four years ago, the folks at Jones Lang LaSalle decided it was time to do more than tend to their own environmental garden. The $2.9 billion Chicago-based real estate services and investment management company needed to focus on clients and bigger policy issues, too. As a heavy user of electricity, natural gas and other forms of energy, as well as water, and a major producer of waste, the real estate industry accounts for as much as 40% of the total U.S. carbon footprint, according to Lauralee Martin, the company’s CFO and COO (left).

Jim HannaStarbucks: Growing a Better Supply Chain

Certainly a plentiful supply of coffee beans is essential to Starbucks’ long-term success. But so is the viability of the thousands of farmers in Central America, East Africa and other regions who are the $10.7 billion Seattle company’s suppliers. And that means ensuring those farmers engage in practices using less water and more sophisticated irrigation techniques and get paid decently.

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