One of the most notable changes in both corporate and consumer behavior in recent years has been the emergence of so-called ESG (or environmental, social and governance) criteria.
ESG has emerged in a context where governments, businesses and consumers alike have all become increasingly aware of the various social and political problems facing the world. This includes factors such as the rising threat of climate change, the push for gender and racial equality, and the growing importance of adhering to corporate governance standards.
This trio of challenges has pushed companies to take their ethical and moral obligations to society more seriously, with many of the world’s biggest and most important businesses now spending a fortune publishing reports about their ESG targets.
Out of the many businesses that have adopted more ESG considerations in their operational and business practices – with global ESG assets poised to surpass $41tn in 2022 – which are the top companies pioneering ethical business models?
Costco Wholesale Corporation
Although many might associate Costco with overconsumption, there are few multinational businesses that can match the human resources practices of Costco.
Costco is frequently praised for offering higher wages and employee benefits while also making concerted efforts to hire from marginalized demographics. Costco is often identified as offering industry-leading work culture and benefits in an industry that often underpays its employees.
Ben & Jerry’s
This global ice-cream manufacturer with Vermont roots has been leading the charge in doing ethical business for decades. The Ben & Jerry’s company takes its social values incredibly seriously and is founded on a commitment to doing good, supporting good causes and producing the best ice-cream out there.
As evidence of this, Ben & Jerry’s frequently collaborates with charities to produce bespoke flavors for good causes. For these reasons, Ben & Jerry’s is a true leader in the ESG investing space and is a popular choice with individuals looking to make ethical investments.
This popular shoe manufacturer was a pioneer in the ‘one-for-one’ consumer goods space. Not only are their products made from sustainable materials, Toms will donate a pair of shoes to someone in need for every purchase. As part of this mission, Toms have leveraged their wild popularity to do good in the world!
Although you might think of them as a sleek eyewear manufacture that prizes aesthetics over everything else, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Warby Parker has changed the eye glasses industry for the better by introducing unparalleled levels of supply chain transparency. In the process, they have helped to make this vital piece of kit more accessible.
Klean Kanteen is on a sustainability mission to reduce waste. In furtherance of this goal, Klean Kanteen secured the rigorous B-Corp certification, which rates them on their ESG targets. They are also a member of the 1% for the planet initiative, which sees them donate 1% of their profits each year towards environmental causes.
Starbucks is a global coffee giant that operates somewhere in the region of 33,000 stores across the world. However, in addition to keeping the world sufficiently caffeinated, Starbucks has also proved to be a leader in the ESG space for many years.
Perhaps most notably, Starbucks has long championed initiatives aimed at supporting sustainable and responsible agriculture, which has helped to make your favorite brew more ethical!
Although you might not have heard of them before, Ecolab is a global leader in water and food safety and has been pioneering ESG polls for years.
Ecolab is a world leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and has partners across more than 40 industries. Ecolab has helped to conserve billions of gallons of water, prevent foodborne illnesses and reduce carbon emissions across various industries.
For this Swedish furniture giant, environmental responsibility starts with the materials they use in their core products, which includes sustainably sourcing cotton, wool and wood. They have also committed to increasing their recycling programs while also reducing their reliance on non-renewable materials by 2030.
Ikea also support charitable causes across the world through their IKEA Foundation, which funds programs in climate change, renewable energy, agriculture, employment and entrepreneurship.
Given the significant charitable pledges its owner Bill Gates has made, it is perhaps little surprise that Microsoft has proved to be a leader in doing business more ethically. And in recent years, the Microsoft corporation has made significant contributions to improving employment practices and environmental sustainability.
They regularly partner with charities through their Microsoft Philanthropies wing, which contributes to educational, social and environmental causes.
Out of all the sustainable and ethical businesses that have made this list, by far the ‘OG’ is Patagonia. This ubiquitous outdoor gear company has not only grown to be a global mega-business producing some of the best outdoor gear around, they are also pioneers in the ESG space.
Patagonia supports numerous grass-roots environmental causes across the world, while also leading the way when it comes to how they treat their employees. In fact, Patagonia is so committed that the entire business has been pledged as a trust to environmental causes.