7 American Companies You Didn’t Realize Were Environmentally Friendly

It’s easy to assume that most big companies value profit and production over environmental health. But believe it or not, some American firms are making a very positive difference when it comes to sustainabilty and stewardship. Here are some of corporate America’s greenest companies — and some of the entries on this list may come as a pleasant surprise.
Since 1987, Hewlett-Packard has recycled over 2.3 billion pounds of used hardware products; much of this has been used to manufacture new products, such as more than 300 ink cartridges in 2010 alone. The official HP website also features a carbon footprint calculator, which web users can use to meausure the environmental impact of their computing devices, and material safety data sheets that list the physical and chemical properties of each HP product. And according to Newsweek, the company has halved its emission levels since 2005 and launched programs that bring awareness to sensitive topics like deforestation and illegal logging. With an overall score of 78.5, HP placed second in the Newsweek Green Rankings 2012 list.
According to Newsweek Green Rankings 2012, IBM is the most environmentally friendly company in the United States. The software giant’s ‘Smarter Planet’ product line allow customers and clients to gauge their overall carbon footprint — and, in the process, save a few bucks. IBM has also been a vocal proponent of sustainable buildings; the supercomputer at the company’s Zurich facility is cooled by a water tank that is also used to heat other buildings on the campus, while efforts to curb wasted energy levels and install green retrofits at the 3.3-million-acre Rochester manufacturing plant led to an 8-percent increase in energy savings at the facility.
Intel has many fans among the green community, including the Environmental Protection Agency. Over the last five years, the EPA has awarded Intel for ‘Green Power Leadership’ and ‘Sustained Excellence in Green Power’, and recognized the company as ‘Partner of the Year’ on three different occasions. Every year, Intel buys more than 3 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable green certificates, which is roughly equivalent to the power generated by 455,000 automobiles. The company achieves this by generating energy through a number of renewable sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal and low-hydro power. “Our renewable purchase is just one part of a multi-faceted approach to protect the environment, and one that we hope spurs additional development and demand for renewable energy,” says President and CEO Paul Otellini.
Johnson & Johnson
In 2011, J&J launched ‘Healthy Future 2015′, a five-year media campaign aimed at building consumer awareness about environmental issues. The company has also implemented an evaluative process for products to determine the environmental impact incurred from initial mineral and resource extraction to consumer distribution and ultimate disposal; today, J&J uses this process (known technically as ‘life-cycle analysis’) to assess 60 different products, and hopes to add more in the coming years. The company has also been green in its acquisitions; it recently absorbed Sterilmed, a company that works with hospitals to extend the shelf-life of various medical supplies. J&J earned four ‘Champion of Change’ awards at the 2012 CleanMed Conference, and ranked second (higher than any other American company) on Interbrand’s ‘Best Global Green Brands 2012′ list.
Maker’s Mark
In addition to producing batch after batch of sweet Kentucky Bourbon whiskey, Maker’s Mark has also become a nationwide leader in environmental innovation. According to Environmental Leader, the popular distillery recently installed an anaerobic digestion processor in its primary wastewater treatment system; installed by Ecovation, the mechanism produces enough biofuel to power all boilers in the facility. Company officials expect to reduce natural gas usage at the main facility by as much as 30 percent, while the processor — which cost Maker’s Mark roughly $8 million to implement — will gradually increase its BTU output in order to meet global demands (read: 2.2 million cases) over the next decade.
S.C. Johnson
To trace the eco-friendliness of S.C. Johnson, we travel back to 1935, when Herbert F. Johnson (grandson of founder Samuel Johnson) led a 15,000-mile expedition into the Brazilian rainforest in search of a sustainable wax source. What they found was the carnauba palm tree, which was later used to produce Johnson’s Wax — the company’s first major product. Fast forward to the present day, and S.C. Johnson is still a model of sustainable business management. The company’s extensive Greenlist records the environmental impact of every raw material used in production (which, at this company, number in the thousands). The Greenlist’s findings have been used to reduce the use of toxic organic chemical compounds and make some of the company’s products (such as Windex and Saran Wrap) more environmentally friendly. The company also recently constructed a large plant powered by methane extracted from a nearby garbage dump.
According to the Newsweek Green Rankings 2012, Sprint-Nextel — which ranked third on the list — was the first cell phone manufacturer to recognize the growing problem of discarded mobile devices. The company pioneered the notion of customers returning their used phones, and today awards store credit to online buyers who opt to recycle their old models. Sprint’s goal is to recycle nine out of every 10 sold phones by 2017. The company’s green product line includes the LG Rumor Reflex, which is considered the most environmentally friendly phone on the market, and the LG Viper, which received green certification from Underwriter’s Laboratory Environment.