When companies fail to keep their key sustainability promises

Photo by Richard Ericksson, flickr

Photo by Richard Ericksson, flickr

Companies large and small are by necessity moving into the sustainability arena. It’s a new language and a new way of thinking of and of doing business and it definitely goes against the norm. But as consumers demand to know that companies are acting sustainably, companies are being forced to adapt.

But adapting can come very slowly, amidst giving good “talk”. Take for example the Walt Disney Company.

In 2012, Disney reached out to the Rainforest Action Network for help in crafting a new sustainable paper sourcing policy. Disney is, after all, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and magazines, with more than 700 million products sold each year. The company’s paper sourcing influences the operations of 25,000 factories in more than 100 countries.

Disney talks about being sustainby printing its books

Disney talks about being sustainably printing its books

You’d think that this partnership would garner some great results, right?

But after 18 months of working closely with the company, some of Rainforest Action Network’s officials have grown frustrated with Disney’s slow pace. “When we talked to them recently, they gave good reasons why implementation is lagging,”  says Lafcadio Cortesi, Asia director for the NGO.

n its latest sustainability report,  Disney explained that it held off on its plan to design and develop a paper tracking and verification process and system en route to its goal of using less paper and a higher percentage of recycled paper:

“In 2013, we focused on the design elements: identifying and developing business and functional requirements for the paper supplier tracking and verification system. During the discovery phase, we put a temporary hold on developing the system because we needed additional time to finalize a comprehensive and fully integrated system solution.”

Ah, yes, red tape gets in the way of progress once again. Or perhaps it’s that profits come first. And talk is cheaper than action after all.

Ceres report in April found that US corporations aren’t doing enough to tackle climate change and other sustainability threats. “While there is progress being made by an increasing number of companies and sectors, we are still not seeing the speed of change that is required – or the scale of innovation that is possible,” the report noted.

Earth in our handsSome of the top US companies that have failed to meet key sustainability targets include:

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • 3M

Seems that if companies miss their lofty green goals, there’s no one to hold them accountable. But that’s not to say that no one notices. Since consumers vote by the products they purchase and via online petitions, perhaps it’s time for consumers to speak up as often and as loudly as we an about this issue.

As the clock continues to tick on climate change issues, corporations can’t afford to procrastinate any longer, nor can consumers ignore their reluctance to act boldly and speedily. It’s time for urgency, not slow plodding.

For more details on how corporations are slow-moving, click here.

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