Today sustainability is a core driver of business and brand value. Millennial consumers age 13 to 34 value corporate social responsibility and ethical causes. Their great reverence for the environment translates into great sensitivity toward how brands approach sustainability. How are brands actively reducing energy and water usage? What supply chain standards are brands adhering to in order to protect people and environments worldwide?

By answering these questions the following 4 brands are models of sustainability in their respective industries.

1. Unilever

Unilever is a multinational consumer goods company that produces world-leading brands including Lipton, Knorr, Dove, Axe, Hellmann’s and Omo, alongside trusted local names such as Blue Band, Pureit and Suave. Its products include food, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. Sustainability is integral to how Unilever conducts business, which is why the firm is consistently rated the #1 sustainable brand in the world.

In order to focus its sustainability efforts, Unilever created the Sustainable Living Plan, which includes strategies to:

  • Help more than a billion people improve their health and well-being
  • Reduce the environmental footprint of products by half
  • Source 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably
  • Enhance the livelihoods of people across their value chain

Unilever is committed to incorporating sustainability into each stage of the product life cycle. The firm works with several NGOs and sustainability experts to help set and accomplish green goals.

2. Patagonia

Patagonia is an outdoor gear and clothing company known for using pioneering sustainable materials and manufacturing practices. What separates Patagonia from other sustainable brands is an unparalleled commitment to transparency. For example, after several Patagonia employees got sick from cotton treated with formaldehyde, the firm commissioned a study of conventional cotton production. Upon discovering that cotton grown with pesticides was one of the most destructive crops in the agricultural world, Patagonia immediately switched to organic cotton. From cotton, Patagonia moved to address the impacts of its entire supply chain, from crop to fabric to finished garment. The Footprint Chronicles identifies and reduces adverse social and environmental impacts through unprecedented supply chain transparency. Operating a radically open and responsible business has earned Patagonia a spot as the world leader in sustainable apparel.

3. Ford Motor Company

Although famous for killing the electric car, Ford was recently recognized as one of the world’s most ethical companies by the Ethisphere Institute, a business ethics think tank. Ford’s commitment to sustainability is helping the company achieve a vision of building great products, a strong business and a better world. According to its 2013/2014 sustainability report, Ford’s sustainability strategy aims to create business value consistent with the “long term preservation and enhancement of environmental, social, and financial capital.“

Ford’s climate change and environment plans include the following:

  • Reducing facility CO2 emissions per unit of production 30 percent below 2010 levels by 2025
  • Reducing landfill waste per unit of production 40 percent below 2011 levels by 2016
  • Offering leading fuel economy
  • Stabilizing carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that avoids the most serious consequences of climate change

By integrating sustainability into core business processes, Ford earns the top spot in the automotive industry.


IKEA is a multinational group of companies that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, appliances, small motor vehicles and home accessories. IKEA aims to use massive scale to make a positive difference for customers, employees, suppliers and the planet. According to IKEA’s 2014 sustainability report, “people won’t accept compromise, which is why ’sustainable’ products must be well designed, functional, good quality and be affordable for the many, not a luxury for the few.“ In order to deliver on these promises, IKEA has created a People & Planet Positive strategy consisting of three focal areas:

  • Inspiring and enabling millions of customers to live a more sustainable life at home
  • Striving for resource and energy independence
  • Taking a lead in creating a better life for the people and communities impacted by IKEA’s business operations.

IKEA’s sustainability strategy is backed by dozens of performance indicators and goals. Globally IKEA aims to reduce the carbon intensity of internal operations by 50 percent from 2010 to 2015.