In 2012, 64 percent of US companies said they had a sustainability plan in place or were in the midst of drafting one, up from 38 percent in 2011, according to research by hygiene and paper company SCA.
In SCA’s 2012 Tork Report, titled The Sustainability Gap, 31 percent of US firms and 30 percent of Canadian firms said their sustainability plans are having a positive impact on the bottom line (see chart). But 57 percent of US companies and 60 percent of Canadian companies saw no impact on their bottom line, and 12 percent of US companies and 10 percent of Canadian companies saw a negative impact on profits from their sustainability initiatives, the report says.
SCA warns that industry has approached the end of “corporate sustainability 1.0” – the picking of low-hanging fruit – and that there is now a large gap between the status quo and the next level of achievement.
To get to the next level of sustainability achievement, businesses and consumers should consider the following initiatives, SCA says:
- Reducing food waste: Americans waste 40 percent of the nation’s food supply, the single biggest contributor to solid waste in landfills.
- Adding a universal sustainability index, a guide to help consumers and companies make smarter product choices. This was deemed a good idea by three-quarters of people surveyed.
- Reducing the amount of “green washing,” or false claims by companies that tout a product’s environmental benefits.
Sustainability plans should also include the health of a company’s workforce, but this is generally not the case at present, according to the report.
The Tork Report is named after SCA’s line of professional hygiene products. In November last year, SCA announced that all of its Tork paper products in North America are now made from either 100 percent recycled fiber or from fresh fiber sourced from suppliers with “chain of custody” certification.