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Big Impact from Seemingly Small Changes: How Multinationals Are Starting the Sustainability Journey

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We are awash in "green" articles that highlight examples and best-practices of companies such as Patagonia, Stonyfield Farm, and Timberland—businesses that have had sustainability as part of their DNA from the outset.

But for large multinational brands (especially suppliers of packaged goods) that are dependent on energy-intensive supply chains and high volumes of raw materials, a different approach is often required.

For such brands, the journey to a more sustainable business usually starts with the entry question of "where (or how) do we start?"—particularly in the case of those brands for which, to put it simply, "selling more stuff" (and more than their competitors) has been the prevailing internal mindset and the business priority, up until now.

This article focuses on leading global brands that are making the transition from treating sustainability as a hot "green topic" to embracing it as a true business strategy. It includes US and European companies that have identified "hotspots" in their supply chain where their environmental impact can be reduced, relatively quickly and inexpensively.

Viewed in isolation, some of these steps may seem minor. However, viewed against the total volume of transactions, their cumulative impact is undeniable.


These seemingly small changes are not quick fixes or marketing makeovers but true sustainable strides that have entered the mainstream marketplace. They also reflect successful collaboration between marketing and operations departments that have worked together to implement genuine environmental changes vs. marketing half-truths that consumers are starting not to believe. These brands recognize that sustainability should not be viewed just as a cost saver but also a sales driver, and that products and services embedded with sustainable practices are attracting more publicity and increased brand loyalty—and in many cases they are selling faster.


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Rachel Botsman is the director of strategy of OZOlab (www.ozolab.com), an innovation incubator that identifies, creates, and markets sustainable products and services. She can be reached at Rachel@ozolab.com.

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  • by Randall Montalbano Tue Dec 2, 2008 via web

    Great job on this article, Rachel.

  • by Andrea Learned Wed Dec 3, 2008 via web

    Love the detail and examples, Rachel. Articles like yours are so helpful because they demonstrate that a move toward more sustainable practices need not be done overnight, but that incremental steps can be incredibly effective too (both in aiming toward greater sustainability and in showing consumers that sustainability is indeed a long term priority.)

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