Verizon, McDonald’s and BJ’s Set High Sustainability Goals

Some of the biggest companies in the U.S. are setting their sights pretty high with sustainability goals. Will these lofty efforts make a noticeable impact on the environment?

First up is news that Verizon plans to cut its CO2 intensity in half by 2020, as part of the company’s broader sustainability efforts while creating shareholder value. According to Verizon, carbon intensity is a measurement of energy efficiency, and in this case, the amount of energy needed to move data across Verizon’s network. It is improved by reducing the absolute amount of energy and by moving more data with the same unit of energy. Verizon is using its 2009 carbon intensity level as the benchmark for the company’s 50 percent reduction by 2020.

“This is the era of big data,” said Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam in a press release. “Our business continues to grow at a rapid pace, but we’re committed to innovating our way to growing responsibly by becoming more energy efficient, even as our business expands.”

To back its sustainability commitment and shareholder-value strategy, Verizon recently issued its first combined annual and corporate responsibility report.

Reports and lofty claims aside, if Verizon can truly cut its “carbon intensity” (think about the thousands of trucks it rolls out for installations and repairs), then I say, “We hear you now.”

Similar to Verizon, fast food behemoth McDonald’s is taking a close look at its product offering to see how it can reduce any negative impacts towards the environment. According to, the company is launching a pilot program to phase out polystyrene beverage cups.

“The company recently informed us it is testing replacement of polystyrene with a double-walled paper hot cup at approximately 2,000 of its restaurants in the U.S., primarily on the West Coast — that represents nearly 15 percent its U.S. restaurants,” GreenBiz explains.

If you think this latest move from McDonald’s is just a drop in the bucket, think again. GreenBiz reminds us that the ongoing controversy about the environmental impacts of polystyrene led McDonald’s to phase out foam-based clamshell food containers amid concerns that petroleum-based food packaging persists in the environment for hundreds of years after use. The results from that effort, according to GreenBiz:

Over the next decade, McDonald’s eliminated more than 300 million pounds of packaging and reduced restaurant waste by 30 percent, saving an estimated $6 million per year. It is now one of the largest purchasers of recycled paper, used in its food containers, bags, and napkins.

Polystyrene is not widely recycled, so McDonald’s continued efforts to eliminate this material from its product lineup is a very big deal, indeed.

Meanwhile, according to Supermarket News, BJ’s Wholesale Club recently announced a new sustainable seafood policy aimed at ensuring all seafood products sold in the company’s stores are sourced from suppliers identified as sustainable, or on track to meet sustainability standards by 2014. The new policy will require its suppliers to:

  • Implement fishing and harvesting methods that protect aquatic species and ocean habitats;
  • Aquaculture operations will be required to limit their use of chemicals and implement safeguards that prevent farmed fish from escaping or otherwise affecting wild fish populations; and
  • Suppliers and fisheries are encouraged  to maintain and use the latest technology to make harvesting less destructive to ocean habitats and to other aquatic species, such as dolphins and turtles.

The program was developed in partnership with leading non-profit groups, including the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, the Marine Stewardship Council and the Global Aquaculture Alliance.

Why all the attention to seafood? BJ’s currently operates over 190 club stores in 15 states from Maine to Florida and employs more than 24,000, so efforts to get its seafood suppliers on board could make a sizable, positive impact on the environment.

What do you think? Are Verizon, McDonald’s and BJ’s doing their part to reduce negative impact on the environment?



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