Sustainable Business Examples from Around the World – UK, USA, South Africa

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 12.05.26As businesses become more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students and faculty, they say that they repeatedly hear the same examples from the same international companies.

In an attempt to share some new examples of good practise, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about their favourite classroom examples of local companies that are actively involved in sustainability. Below are some examples from the UK, USA, and South Africa.

Professor Michael Sherer, Director, Essex Business School, UK

The Green Light Trust is an environmental Suffolk-based charity, operating principally across eastern England. Green Light enables people, communities, and organisations to develop their relationship with nature to create sustainable lives and a future that protects our planet via consultancy work with individuals, community groups, and businesses. The East of England Cooperative Society is collaborating on a research project with the Essex Sustainability Institute, investigating the links between local food production and wellbeing. QualitySolicitors FJG, a long-established firm of solicitors, is the biggest legal aid provider in the Eastern region. The firm worked closely with Essex Business School to conduct a thorough review of the firm’s family law section and identify more efficient and environmentally friendly practices that could be implemented. It is committed to offering affordable legal services for clients, despite changes to the legal aid system.

Dr. Donna Sockell, Executive Director of CESR, Leeds School of Business, USA

New Belgium Brewing Co., led by CEO and co-founder, Kim Jordan, is staunchly guided by its core values and beliefs. The company’s high involvement ownership culture, keen focus on environmental metrics, and support of the local community provide a compelling example to students of how a for-profit company can sustainably “walk the talk” of caring for people, planet and profits. Davita Inc., the largest independent provider of dialysis services, stands out not only for their impact on patients suffering from chronic kidney failure, but also for their unique management philosophy that empowers every employee. Kent Thiry, Chairman and CEO, has managed to build Davita into a true community that is passionate about social responsibility, leadership development, and excellence. WhiteWave Foods Company helped create some of the biggest consumer trends in food. The company’s core value is that good food should nourish the body and mind while preserving the planet, so WhiteWave sets specific goals to track progress and measure improvement. By using the power of its brands, the passion of its people, and both the small and big scale of its business, WhiteWave demonstrates how a successful for-profit company can create meaningful and lasting change.

Dr. Japie Heydenrych, Milpark Business School, South Africa

MTN’s CSR initiatives focus on six communities in some of South Africa’s most remote rural areas. They have brought about positive change through job creation, better healthcare, improved education, and support for entrepreneurial businesses and ideas in the areas. In education, for example, they help improve the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) connectivity in rural schools, building new science labs and centres, using technology to provide scholars and teachers with tele-teaching aids and skills, and making the infrastructure in schools better. Nedbank’s Green Infinity is an initiative through which the company donates money on behalf of clients who have one of the Green Infinity products. After more than 20 years in existence, the WWF Nedbank Green Trust has funded projects in climate change, freshwater conservation, marine conservation, the preservation of outstanding places, the conservation of species of special concern, and conservation leadership.

Business Examples from Around the World – South Africa, Sweden and Mexico

Students from Tecnologico de Monterrey using CEMEX's brick machines

As businesses become more and more engaged in sustainability around the world, we are presented with an increasing range of interesting examples of active companies. However, when I speak with students/faculty, they say that they often hear about the same examples from the same international companies over and over again.

In an attempt to share some new best practice examples, I asked a handful of faculty members from around the world about some of their favourite examples of local companies actively involved in sustainability that they use in their classrooms. Here are some examples from Mexico, South Africa and Sweden:

Oliver Laasch, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Campus San Luis Potosí, Mexico

There is a recent CEMEX example that is quite amazing. CEMEX is a global leader in the building materials industry. They have a programme called “blockeras comunitarias,” where people who want to build a home can use CEMEX cement and a “block-making machine” to produce bricks. One out of every two bricks goes to the person producing it; the other is taken by CEMEX to be sold, which enables the project to remain economically sustainable. The program is so well accepted that people often need to wait up to two months to use the machine. It addresses one of Mexico’s most pressing problems, providing housing (vivienda) in a scalable and self-sustaining way.

Dr. Arnold Smith, Director of the Centre for Business in Society, University of Stellenbosch Business School, South Africa

In the wine and tourism environment, Spier is a real leader when it comes to making sustainability part of how they do business across their whole supply chain. In the financial services industry, Nedbank is looking at sustainability, not just in terms of their operations, but also in terms of their product offerings. Another interesting case that will raise a lot of questions in the future is the Walmart/Massmart merger. There is resistance for the merger coming from the unions, because they feel it could take job opportunities away and harm small producers in South Africa. In response, Walmart has put down $15 million (USD) to strengthen local procurement lines.

Olof Johansson, Business Manager, Executive MBA, GU School of Executive Education, Sweden

Nudie Jeans works a lot on responsible production. They use organic cotton, encourage quality rather than quantity (different consumption patterns) and are members of Fair Wear Foundation, Textile Exchange, Global Organic Textile Standard and Oeko-Tex Standard 100.The Dem Collective makes clothes with a focus on human rights and the use of ecological materials. Last but not least, SKF, a global industrial company making ball bearings, is highly ranked in global sustainability rankings. They have a number of interesting sustainability initiatives including SKF Care and BeyondZero.

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