by Melissa Zepeda
Purchasing trends show that people prioritize environmental impact when buying. Our move towards companies that share our interest in protecting the planet comes at a time when the choice is becoming more and more of a no-brainer.
No matter what we are looking for, there is almost always an option that is comparable in price, equal or better in quality, and doesn’t come at the expense of the planet. Not only are some companies responding to consumer preference, but, excitingly, many are leading the way forward in terms of environmental stewardship.
As companies increasingly label themselves “eco-friendly,” it can be tricky to identify the companies that are truly eco-friendly and those that are merely jumping on the environmental bandwagon for “green marketing.”
But worry not! After a brief discussion of what it means for a business to be truly environmentally sustainable, we will share a list of our favorite companies leading the way in planet-friendly business practices.
What Does it Mean for Companies to be “Eco-Friendly”?
We’ve all heard, “It’s about the bottom line.” But many companies disagree, instead operating on a triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. These companies place their impact on community and environment as critical measurements of their success.
With the seriousness of the current climate crisis, it’s important that we continue to develop our high standards for environmental friendliness and applaud the companies that continue to prioritize and work on the cutting edge of environmental innovation.
When you learn about the environmental commitments of some companies, you realize that “eco-friendly” is much more than just not harmful to the environment. For companies that are truly eco-friendly, environmental consciousness is entwined throughout every aspect of the company’s identity.
These companies not only create sustainable products and ethical sourcing, but their manufacturing and production is environmentally responsible, and often, they are working to completely alter the landscape of businesses’ role and obligation in protecting the Earth. Many of these companies (like those on our list) are focused on not only not harming the planet, but actually having a net positive impact.
So, for companies that we consider eco-friendly, sustainability is central every step of the way: from transparent and ethical sourcing of raw materials, to environmentally-friendly practices in manufacturing, to packaging and shipping, to diverting landfill waste at the end of their product’s life.
Eco-friendly companies go beyond their products in their fight against climate change. They each continue the fight in their own unique way as well. They take action to preserve the planet through environmental policy advocacy, promoting environmental awareness and local participation in conservation efforts, partnering with other movements and organizations and more!
With the current realities of the world, it just isn’t acceptable to ignore businesses’ environmental contribution. Businesses that are truly environmentally friendly not only acknowledge this reality, but they are redefining what “environmental contribution” means. For these companies, negatively affecting the environment is out of the question—that discussion, for them, is how substantial their positive contribution is.
Why is it Important for Companies to be Eco-Friendly?
There are many ethical and practical reasons companies must be committed to being leaders in the environmental space. First and foremost is the reality that we only have one planet, and we all share it. All businesses have an impact on the planet, and that impact affects all of us.
Companies use huge amounts of our planet’s resources, and they in turn have huge impacts. It’s critical that sustainability be at the core of their sourcing, production, and distribution to make sure the world we live in continues to be habitable for the people these companies benefit from.
In addition to the ethical demands, businesses should be eco-friendly for practical reasons as well. Consumers are increasingly seeking to engage with eco-friendly products and companies. In a recent report from Nielsen, 81% of consumers said it is “extremely” or “very” important that companies “implement programs to improve the environment” and 30% of consumers said they are “willing to pay a premium for products that deliver on social responsibility claims.”
Millennials and Generation Z are a major factor in consumer-driven sustainability. Millennials account for at least $1 trillion in consumer spending in the United States while Generation Z spends about $143 billion. Millennials have been a driving force in socially-conscious shopping, and Gen Z isn’t far behind.
In one study, 90% of Gen Zers “believe companies must act to help social and environmental issues.” These generations are voting with their dollar, and companies are heading their demands as they try not to alienate two high-spending consumer groups.
In the end, becoming an eco-friendly company is also a great way for the companies themselves to save money. Reducing energy consumption and increasing energy efficiency save on utility costs. Some of the companies on our list recycle or reuse their old products to turn into new ones, which saves on materials. Combined with an increase in sales, becoming an eco-friendly business brings a host of positive benefits in the immediate and that reach far into the future.
How can Consumers Know Who is Truly Eco-Friendly?
If you google “eco-friendly companies,” you’ll get a long list of so-called “green” companies. But what separates companies that are “going green” from those that are actually environmentally friendly?
One of the easiest ways to tell if a company is truly eco-friendly and concerned about their environmental impact is by looking at their website. If environmental efforts are at the core of a company’s existence, you can expect they will have information about their environmental impact and mission readily available, right?
For example, all of the websites of companies on our list have clear, easy-to-find information about their environmentally sustainable practices. And exploring their websites doesn’t just show you that they are green companies. It provides eye-opening information on each aspect of their efforts and often introduces environmental innovation we didn’t even know were possible!
Another way to find truly environmentally-friendly business is through their certifications. It’s always important to have an understanding of what certifications mean, so you know how reliably they represent your values.
For example, as we have mentioned time and time again, and again, B Corporation certification is considered the gold standard for better-for-the-world business practices. If you “see the B” on a company’s website or product, that means the company achieved an impressive minimum score on the B Impact Assessment, an assessment that is divided into five Impact Areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. The environmental area of the assessment is very stringent and thorough, and often, B Corp Certified companies provide an impact report that details their sustainability plan and implementation.
Another certification (that we happen to have as well) is with 1% for the Planet. All 1% for the Planet members pledge 1% of their total revenue to highly-vetted environmental nonprofit organizations. Some take these partnerships further, joining together both the financial and human capital of the partners to create impressive and widespread environmental impact.
A newer certification (that we also have) that is an indicator of an eco-friendly business is a Climate Neutral. Companies that are Climate Neutral certified measure, reduce, and offset their carbon in order to neutralize their carbon footprint. Some companies have become extremely creative with their efforts making their entire operation carbon-free as well!
These certifications require more than just a corporate social responsibility statement or self-labeling as a “green business” (this will be especially clear after you see what the companies on our list are up to!).
With all of that in mind, now we can go through a list of some of our favorite companies that illustrate what being an “eco-friendly” business actually looks like in practice.
The 10 Most Sustainable Companies for 2021
Outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, is always on the top of eco-friendly company lists, and with good reason. The Ventura-based company has spent its forty-seven years in business being at the cutting edge of environmentally conscious business practices.
Patagonia takes countless routes to being eco-friendly. They have been a huge champion for environmental activism since their inception. Patagonia proudly states they “[a]re in business to save our home planet.”
For the last 35 years, they have pledged 1% of sales to the conservation of the natural environment. This practice led to Patagonia’s Founder, Yvon Chouinard, co-founding 1% for the Planet so other companies could make the same contribution to environmental protection. Patagonia has awarded over $89 million to national and international grassroots, environmental groups. They even sued the president to preserve national monuments in 2017!
Much of their raw materials are recycled or grown organically in order to reduce their environmental footprint. They aim to be completely carbon neutral by 2025! They also acknowledge that they are not perfect and work to change their business practices to lower their environmental impact.
On top of all of that, their initiative, Patagonia Action Works, helps connect consumers with local activist groups in their community. All of this makes complete sense if you get the chance to learn more about Yvon Chouinard.
We highly recommend Let My People Go Surfing if you want a little more background on the environmental principles behind Patagonia – and, if you are looking to shop more sustainably, check out some of our Patagonia favorites, the Nano Puff or Topley Jackets. Looking for more options? We’ve got you covered with our list of the 9 best Patagonia jackets.
2. Seventh Generation
The paper, personal care, and cleaning product company, Seventh Generation, has been focused on being eco-friendly since being founded in 1988. Seventh Generation’s mission is “to transform the world into a healthy, sustainable & equitable place for the next seven generations.”
Packaging used for selling and shipping products is ahuge source of waste. So, along with their plant-based products made of ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients, Seventh Generation makes sure their packaging is just as environmentally friendly as their products. In order to reduce waste, the company uses recycled materials for their packaging and designs the packaging itself to be recycled.
Their goal is for 100% of their products and packaging to use biobased or post-consumer recycled material by 2020, and like Patagonia, Seventh Generation aims to become a zero-waste company by 2025.
Seventh Generation is also focused on environmental advocacy. The company is very concerned about information access, fighting for legislation requiring product ingredient disclosures. They also support the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, an environmental initiative to get cities across the country to commit to 100% clean, renewable, and just energy usage by 2050.
Their foundation, Seventh Generation Foundation, supports community action as well, offering grants to nonprofit organizations “that promote and improve environmental conservation, the sustainable use of natural resources, and human health and social welfare” with at least half of the Foundation’s funds donated to indigenous-led organizations.
(And if you want to learn more about Grove and why we love them, check out our complete Grove Collaborative review.)
3. A Good Company
If environmental sustainability isn’t the first thing you think of when you see an e-commerce company, that’s because it generally shouldn’t! But, A Good Company is on a mission to change e-commerce for that exact reason. Ahhh, an ethical alternative to Amazon—yes, please.
A Good Company exists to create sustainable everyday products. As you may notice with the other companies on this list, “sustainability” means more than just not polluting the planet. Founded in 2018, Anders Ankarlid founded the Sweden-based company with his kids in mind. He wants to be able to tell his children that he did everything he could to fight climate change. The planet’s health is a deciding consideration with each product A Good Company creates.
How does A Good Company convince their customers they are on the cutting edge of sustainability? They don’t have to convince you. You can see for yourself. Every decision about the materials used, each product idea, and each step of the products’ creation is shared with customers.
A Good Company believes that full transparency will give their customers the opportunity to understand what sustainability looks like for an environmentally friendly company, and it will push them to stay innovative in staying as environmentally responsible “as humanly possible.” It encourages customers to be conscious consumers, furthering its mission to end mindless consumption.
From the world’s first climate positive notebook made with stone paper, to their luxury pen made of melted down illegal firearms from El Salvador, to their eco friendly phone case, to their climate positive packaging, A Good Company leaves no stone unturned in its commitment for sustainability.
4. New Belgium Brewing
New Belgium Brewing Company is the fourth-largest craft brewery in the US and has been committed to being eco-friendly since their founding in 1991. During the initial founding, the owners took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and set down their core values, chief among them, “kindling social, environmental and cultural change as a business role model; environmental stewardship: honoring nature at every turn of the business.”
The Fort Collins based brewery uses only sustainable vendors and is also a Platinum-certified Zero Waste Business and 99.9% of their waste does not go to a landfill.
One of New Belgium Brewing Company’s main focus on being environmentally conscious is with their own energy consumption. While they acknowledge their role in greenhouse gas emissions, they aim to lower their energy impact by energy conservation, producing energy onsite, and implementing an internal energy tax.
Their internal energy tax is a voluntary self-tax on every kilowatt hour of electricity they purchase. This tax funds energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy projects.
Pela began in 2010 when its founder began to think about the impact of plastics in the ocean after seeing plastics on the beach while on vacation. The company now prides itself on creating the “World’s First 100% Compostable Phone Case,” and their goal is to prevent 1 billion pounds of plastic from being made in the next 5 years.
We have a few of their cases within the Grow Ensemble team, and you can learn more about them in our Pela phone case review as well as our interview with Pela founder Jeremy Lang where we discussed sustainable product design. Their cases are made from 45% plant-based materials and the back panel of their Clear case is made from 100% plant-based materials.
In 2019, Pela offset their entire carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits and are now Climate Neutral Certified. In 2020, they plan to reduce carbon emissions by streamlining transportation routes to distribution centers, help globally decrease product end-of-life waste, and help manufacturing facilities shift to renewable power or improve their energy efficiency.
And like several of the other entries on this list, Pela is a fellow 1% for the Planet member, and they partner with various organizations to support their efforts to tackle ocean pollution and protect our beaches.
6. Dr. Bronner’s
Dr. Bronner’s All-One organic soaps and personal care products are some of the best selling eco-friendly products and with good reason. There are 6 “Cosmic Principles” that guide the whole company in how they do business and how they create their products, including “treat the earth like home” and “be fair to suppliers.”
Like other companies on this list, Dr. Bronner’s truly cares about doing right by the environment. Dr. Bronner’s organic and fair trade ingredients are all certified by some of the most environmentally and socially sustainable organizations. All of their plastic bottles are 100% post-consumer recycled, which conserves resources and reduces landfill waste.
The California-based company also builds equitable supply chains through its fair trade practices. Dr. Bronner’s fair trade principles include fair and stable prices to farmers, environmental stability, and no forced or child labor.
The company estimates 10,000 people globally have benefited directly and another 10,000 indirectly from their fair trade projects.
Now, Preserve makes many eco-friendly products from recycled plastics, including razors, measuring cups, and colanders. The company also makes plant-based products like their compostable straws, cups, and plates. One of their new initiatives, Preserve Ocean Plastic Initiative (POPi), uses plastics from the coastlines and oceans to make toothbrushes and razors, reducing the plastic waste in the oceans. All of Preserve’s products are recyclable or compostable.
Preserve took their eco-friendly company one step further and started the Gimme 5 recycling program in 2007. Consumers can recycle their #5 polypropylene plastic in Gimme 5 bins at Whole Foods, which are then turned into new Preserve products. The company also has a Toothbrush Takeback program, which accepts used Preserve toothbrushes that are also recycled and turned into new eco-friendly products.
If you want to learn more about Preserve and their background, listen in to our conversation with the CEO, Eric Hudson where we discussed how to keep plastic out of the ocean!
8. Numi Organic Tea
Numi Organic Tea, an Oakland-based organic tea enterprise, is a rare quadruple-bottom line company that includes people, planet, profit, and purpose in their business model.
Numi’s teas are made with organic teas, herbs, and 100% real fruits, flowers, and spices and are ethically sourced. Almost all (93% in 2017) are Fair Trade or Fair Labor certified products. Their company also uses sustainable packaging for their teas. The tea boxes are made of 90% post-consumer recycled content and their tea wrappers are now compostable.
Numi Organic Tea’s mission includes maximizing social and environmental impact, which they achieve through the Numi Foundation. The Numi Foundation supports three programs, helping people both locally in Oakland, and globally.
Recently, Numi Organic Tea celebrated Earth Day by pledging to become carbon neutral by 2023. Their three-step plan includes reducing emissions throughout their supply chain, using 100% renewable energy for their headquarters, and offsetting emissions.
9. Rogue Creamery
If you’re on the lookout for sustainable handcrafted blue cheese, look no further than Rogue Creamery based in Southern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley. Rogue Creamery’s cheeses are USDA Certified Organic, made with all organic ingredients, and Certified Humane, using ethical stewardship for their land and farm animals.
There are serious environmental concerns when talking about food production, and Rogue Creamery is taking those concerns seriously. At their dairy farm, the creamery builds soil health and biodiversity and prioritize their animals’ health and welfare. The creamery also employs a dairy waste repurposing system that converts waste into usable byproducts, including bedding for cows and fertilizer.
Rogue Creamery takes their sustainability into the community as well. They started the Nellie Green Pedal Power program in 2009 to encourage employees and customers to use more sustainable modes of transportation and have involved other local businesses in their efforts.
10. West Paw
For eco-friendly pet supplies, West Paw is a great company to consider. Based in Bozeman, Montana, West Paw uses all sustainable materials for their products. Their triple bottom line comes down to people, pets, and the planet.
Their environmental innovation makes sure your pup can play without punishing our planet. For example, IntelliLoft is an eco-fiber made from recycled plastics. By using this eco-fiber for fluff and fabric, West Paw has kept 12.6 million plastic bottles from landfills.
West Paw also designed Zogoflex, which can be recycled infinitely to make new toys. They created their own recycling program, Join the Loop, in 2009 to keep this cycle going. Customers can mail in their old Zogoflex toys that will be recycled into new Zogoflex toys.
Anyone with a toy-loving pet can imagine how substantial this impact can be—think of how many de-fluffed toys go into the trash can every single year!
Now You’re Ready to Opt for Planet-Friendly Products
These are only a few of the truly eco-friendly companies out there. There are so many more that protect the planet and the people on it every day. Now you know what to look for, and you can keep an eye out on your own.
Once you start looking at companies who take their environmental impact seriously, you’ll start seeing the amazing advocacy and innovation happening in the space. They give all of us the option to be earth-friendly with most of the day-to-day purchases we make.
If you are heading out to make a purchase and want a good starting point for a specific product, the B Corp Directory is another good place to check out. There you can sort by industry and location to find more environmentally-friendly companies, like Allbirds, Stasher, and Leesa Sleep, to buy from or support. You can also check out our list of sustainable gifts for some inspiration!
As these companies continue their work, they aren’t only focused on their own impact, but they are also redefining the role of business in addressing climate change and protecting our planet.