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Leaders in Sustainable Supply Chain

SustainabilityPublished on January 22, 2021

Global supply chains represent an opportunity to take coordinated action against the sustainability risks associated with increasing consumer demand for products and improved lifestyles. This list of supply chain sustainability frontrunners are taking the lead in measuring and improving their impact on the environment and on the communities that work to make their businesses successful. From partnerships that are working to design new ethical sourcing standards, to artificial intelligence innovations that improve the tracking of environmental indicators, to ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, these companies are setting the stage for a new era of responsible capitalism. 


At a glance:

  • 2019 revenue: $27 billion
  • Number of employees: 346,000
  • Headquarters: Seattle, Washington

Starbucks is committed to becoming a resource positive company. This ambitious goal includes three main focus areas for Starbucks: storing more carbon than they emit, fully eliminating waste, and replenishing more water than they use. These ambitious goals have set an industry standard for measuring and achieving sustainability. As the largest global seller of coffee, their goals will require buy-in from all supply chain partners.

This latest iteration of sustainability at Starbucks was just launched in 2020, but the company has been a pioneer in ethical sourcing for decades. In 2001, they launched the Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices (C.A.F.E.), one of the first ethical and supply chain standards in the industry. The four tenets of the C.A.F.E practices are quality, economic transparency, social responsibility, and environmental leadership. This standard guides the approach to responsible sourcing for their entire supply chain. It includes provisions to supply local economies, to help small farmers adapt to climate change, and to increase the transparency of the coffee ecnomiy. 

Sustainability resume:

  • Has sourced 100% renewable energy for its more than 9,000 company-operated stores since 2015.
  • Committed to setting a science-based greenhouse gas reduction target in January 2020.
  • In partnership with Conservation International, Starbucks developed the Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices in 2001.
  • More than 18,000 Starbucks employees have enrolled in a company-sponsored online sustainability and environmental stewardship course since 2018.


At a glance:

  • 2019 revenue: $63 billion
  • Number of employees: 155,000
  • Headquarters: London, England

No list of sustainable companies is complete without this British multinational consumer goods company that counts more than 400 brands, including Lipton, Dove, and Bryers, as part of its portfolio. Unilever is a pioneer in the concept of decoupling environmental impact with the growth of its business. This has led them to set goals of reducing their footprint while continuing to provide products that enhance the lives of millions. The company recognizes that 66% of their greenhouse gas impact comes from the use-phase of their products, so Unilever ensures their environmental goals encompass the entire lifecycle of their products. In 2019, they sourced 62% of their raw materials from sustainable sources, and they are investing in AI and blockchain technologies to achieve their goals of sourcing from 100% sustainable sources.

Sustainability resume:

  • By 2030, Unilever has committed to halving the environmental impact of making and using their products. This includes the greenhouse gases, water use, and waste associated with making and distributing their products and also includes consideration for the end-of-life phase of their products.
  • CDP Climate Change and Water A list member. Member of the CDP Supply Chain group.
  • Unilever has committed to eliminating scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030.
  • Top ranked sustainability leader by a GlobeScan survey of sustainability professionals.
  • In 2018, Unilever increased their internal price on carbon to 40 Euros per metric ton.


At a glance:

  • 2020 revenue: $38 billion
  • Number of employees: 75,000
  • Headquarters: Beaverton, Oregon

Athletic retailer Nike engages with sustainability at every level of their supply chain. They embed this culture of sustainability into the design process all the way through to the distribution and sales of their many brands of athletic and sports equipment. At Nike, sustainability encompasses everything from the manufacturing emissions it takes to produce their products, the ethical workforce considerations it employs, and the materials that are used to make their products. 

Some selected metrics that they measure and report on include the sustainability performance of each one of their factories, complete employee demographics broken down by race, gender, and position, as well as detailed material reports and carbon emission footprints for many of their products. The high level of measurement and transparency that Nike achieves within their supply chain cement their inclusion among this group of leaders.

Sustainability resume:

  • Nike has set a science-based target to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 65% by 2030 from a 2015 base year. They have also set a target to reduce absolute scope 3 GHG emissions 30%.
  • As a part of their climate action program Move to Zero the company has published a study outlining how climate change will affect the ability of athletes to play and compete in sports.
  • Member of the CDP Supply Chain group.
  • Published a product responsibility tool that provides factory-level information about the entire Nike global supply chain.


At a glance:

  • 2020 revenue: $524 billion
  • Number of employees: More than 2 million
  • Headquarters: Bentonville, Arkansas

The scope of Walmart’s influence means that any improvements they make in their supply chain have drastic impacts on their suppliers and the environment. Over the last 15 years, Walmart has made huge strides in improving the sustainability of their operations. This has included placing a focus on certifying the sustainable supply of key commodities. Their focus on coffee, forests, beef, seafood and textiles has required these industries to adopt more sustainability practices in order to remain in the valuable Walmart supply chain. 

Their supply chain engagement initiative Project Gigaton aims to work with suppliers in order to avoid the emissions of one billion metric tons of greenhouse gas throughout their value chain. To put this goal into perspective, the energy-related emissions of the entire United States have fluctuated between 5 and 6 billion metric tons over the last 10 years. If achieved, this ambitious goal would be the largest corporate carbon reduction initiative on record.

Sustainability resume:

  • Member of the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index 
  • The company recently announced a new goal to achieve zero emissions across their entire supply chain by 2040. 
  • CDP Climate Change A list member. Member of the CDP Supply Chain group.
  • Walmart has committed to reducing absolute scopes 1 and 2 GHG emissions 35% by 2025 and 65% by 2030 from a 2015 base year. This target is in-line with limited global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. 


At a glance:

  • 2019 revenue: $93 billion
  • Number of employees: 352,000
  • Headquarters: Switzerland

This Swiss food and beverage multinational is adept at enabling sustainability victories by driving partnerships. Either with their suppliers, with environmental organizations, or with other corporations, their Creating Shared Value strategy is their framework that underscores their commitment to sustainability collaboration. Examples of this work include their Caring for Water initiative that outlines a set of tools and information required to enable water conservation throughout their supply chain, as well as their collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to help create agriculture-sector guidance for responding to the risks of climate change. Nestlé is also a founding member of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative, a platform for sharing knowledge and information with the goal of implementing sustainable agricultural practices through the food supply chain. The platform counts more than 60 organizations as members. In addition, they are actively involved in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and disclose their involvement and progress against all 17 goals. 

Sustainability resume: 

  • Nestlé’s ambition is to strive for zero environmental impact in their operations by 2030
  • The company has been a listed member of the FTSE4Good index since 2011
  • Nestlé is committed to reducing absolute scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions 20% by 2025 and 50% by 2030 from a 2018 base year. 
  • Nestlé is also committed to increasing the annual sourcing of renewable electricity from 40% in 2019 to 100% by 2025.


At a glance:

  • 2020 revenue: $275 billion
  • Number of employees: 147,000
  • Headquarters: Cupertino, California

The key to Apple’s recognition as a sustainability leader comes both from their level of investment in green initiatives and in the care they take during product design and in sourcing materials. Their Carbon Solutions Fund is investing in carbon removal solutions including Columbian Mangrove forests and Kanyan Savannahs that will remove up to 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. This work is in partnership with Conservation International. 

In 2017, they announced a long-term goal to one day use only recycled and renewable materials for all of their packaging and products. For a company with a supply chain as large and complex as Apple’s, this ambition is unprecedented. They report annual progress on each of 45 materials that are critical to their products. The challenges that they work to overcome include regulatory barriers, technical properties, supply chain inefficiencies, and material availability. By working with supply chain partners, regulators, and innovators they are committed to one day making every Apple product a member of the circular economy.

Sustainability resume:

  • Apple is committed to achieving complete carbon neutrality across their supply chain by 2030.
  • Recognized by the UN Climate Neutral Now initiative for leadership in reducing carbon emissions throughout the value chain. Apple has achieved carbon neutrality for its corporate emissions and sources 100% renewable energy for Apple facilities. 
  • Publishes a supplier responsibility report in addition to a full environmental report. 
  • CDP Climate Change A list member.


At a glance:

  • 2019 revenue: $37 billion
  • Number of employees: 86,000
  • Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

The Coca-cola company consistently receives recognition for their efforts to combat and adapt to climate change and for their initiatives to develop a sustainable beverage industry. Recent accomplishments include achieving the company’s water replenishment goal, which was to return 100% of the water that they use annually, as well as reformulating 1,000 beverage brands since 2017; resulting in the removal of 350,000 tons of added sugar each year. The company has also reduced their carbon emission by 24% against a 2010 baseline and now sources more than 50% of their priority ingredients according to sustainable sourcing standards. One area of critical focus for Coca-cola is to make their packaging part of the developing circular economy. Currently, nearly 90% of the company’s packaging is recyclable and 20% is made from recycled materials.

Sustainability resume:

  • CDP Climate Change and Water A list member. Member of the CDP Supply Chain group.
  • The Coca-Cola company has set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to reduce absolute scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions 25% by 2030 from a 2015 base-year.
  • One of 50 companies recognized at the 2019 SEAL Awards


At a glance:

  • 2020 revenue: $143 billion
  • Number of employees: 166,000
  • Headquarters: Redmond, Washington

Microsoft is a leader in employing its technologies in order to empower their customers around the world to increase their own sustainability and drive sustainable innovation. Their AI for Earth platform supports organizations working to solve environmental problems by applying the full potential of artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Featured partners with Microsoft in this effort are solving challenges as diverse as the food and farming sector, hyper-localized air quality conditions in urban areas, ocean research, and international conservation. The company has also committed to investing $1 billion in the next four years in technological solutions to climate change as a part of their Climate Innovation Fund.

In addition to empowering others, Microsoft is also careful to consider their own operations. They have committed to becoming water positive and carbon negative by 2030. In addition, they will permanently protect and restore more land than they use by 2025. 

Sustainability resume:

  • Microsoft is committed to removing enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to counteract all of their historical emissions, dating back to their founding in 1975.
  • Microsoft received top scores in both the Environment and Social categories within the ISS E&S Quality Score.
  • CDP Climate Change and Water A list member. Member of the CDP Supply Chain group.
  • Microsoft has set a science-based target to reduce scope 3 greenhouse gas emission intensity per unit of revenue 30% by 2030 from a 2017 base year and to avoid growth in absolute scope 3 emissions.

Procter & Gamble

At a glance:

  • 2020 revenue: $71 billion
  • Number of employees: 100,000
  • Headquarters: Cincinnati, Ohio

Consumer goods company Procter & Gamble has a dual focus when it comes to sustainability: decreasing the impact of their own operations while simultaneously providing products that will inspire responsible consumption. With a clear focus on products for use at home, Procter & Gamble is a central force for many individuals and families that enables them to make sustainable purchasing decisions everyday. 

Procter & Gamble recently closed the book on a set of 16 environmental sustainability goals that expired in 2020. They achieved 14 out of their 16 commitments, and they came extremely close to closing the final two. Building off their original goals, the company has set four ambitions that will guide their work through 2030. Some highlights include their commitment to partner with the World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International to fund natural capital solutions that will offset the greenhouse gas emissions that they cannot eliminate from their supply chain (they also have a goal to reduce their own emissions by 50%). They are also a founding member of the 50L Home Coalition that is an international effort to reinvent water use in the home. 

Sustainability resume:

  • Procter & Gamble has committed to reducing emissions from their operations by 50% by 2030 against a 2010 base-year.
  • Included in Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s list of 100 Best Corporate Citizens
  • Ranked as #19 on the Forbes Just 100 2021, a list of leading responsible new era companies.
  • Procter & Gamble has committed to reducing their use of virgin plastic by 50% by 2030


At a glance:

  • 2019 revenue: $75 billion
  • Number of employees: 360,000
  • Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota 

Target is a leader in engaging with suppliers to enable sustainability improvements far beyond the reach of their own operations. Their ethical sourcing standards, their commitment to protect against deforestation and source exclusively from certified forests, as well as their water stewardship efforts, have all sent signals across their supply chain that sustainable consumption is the way of the future and a requirement for continued engagement with one of America’s largest retailers. Target has also set an ambitious goal in alignment with the science-based targets initiative that will require 80 percent of their suppliers to set their own science-based targets by 2023. This requirement will require each of Target’s suppliers to increase their own efforts to combat climate change, resulting in a significant contribution in the race to combat climate change.

Sustainability resume:

  • Ranked as the #22 among Fortune’s Most Admired Companies in 2020, which was the highest ranking among the general merchandisers category.
  • Ranked among Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies in 2020.
  • Target will reduce its absolute Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2017 levels by 2030.
  • More than 500 store locations have installed rooftop solar panels.
  • Member of the CDP Supply Chain group.


At a glance:

  • 2019 revenue: $16 billion
  • Number of employees: 35,000
  • Headquarters: New York, NY

The Colgate-Palmolive Company’s supply chain reaches far and wide around the world. Their recognition as a leader within global sustainability initiatives proves their commitment to responsibly managing this complex network now and in the future. They are one of 37 companies, and one of only 4 American companies, that holds a LEAD status from the UN Global Compact for upholding the 10 Principals and the Sustainable Development Goals. Colgate also recently announced a new suite of sustainability ambitions that includes a net zero carbon emissions commitment by 2040, a net zero water initiative by 2030 (by 2025 for water-stressed regions), and a zero waste ambition for their operations. This industry-leading set of goals builds on the progress the company has made during the last decade, including a $250 million investment in sustainability initiatives and a pledge to achieve net zero deforestation through their supply chain.

Sustainability resume:

  • Rated as the top household products company on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, and included as a member of both the DJSI World and North American Indices.
  • 16 Colgate manufacturing facilities achieved the GBCI TRUE Zero Waste certification in 2019.
  • Colgate-Palmolive has committed to reducing absolute scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions in global operations 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030 from a 2018 base year. They have also committed to reducing absolute scope 3 GHG emissions from purchased goods and services 30% by 2025 from a 2018 base year.
  • They are on the CDP Climate Change and Water A lists and a member of the CDP Supply Chain group.

Anheuser Busch InBev

At a glance:

  • 2019 revenue: $52 billion
  • Number of employees: 170,000
  • Headquarters: Belgium

Global brewer AB InBev counts more than 400 brands of beer as a part of its portfolio. Despite this complexity, and the ever growing portfolio of drinks that are a part of its supply chain, the company has remained committed to fostering a direct connection with its farmers. By 2025, they are working to provide their more than 20,000 farmers with the tools and technology to foster sustainable agricultural techniques and increase the financial empowerment of these partners.

Their 100+ Accelerator is an entrepreneurial program the company created in 2017 that is now accepting applications for its third cohort of innovators. The program provides structure, networking, and funding opportunities for start-ups that are pursuing the goal of a more sustainable future. 17 companies launched from this accelerator in 2020. The acceleration accepts proposals from fields such as renewable energy, the circular economy, and farming efficiencies – anything that has the added benefit of helping to produce more sustainable beer for generations to come. 

Sustainability resume:

  • AB InBev has committed to reduce their absolute scopes 1 and 2 GHG emissions 35% by 2025 from a 2017 base year and to reduce emissions across the value chain (Scopes 1, 2 and 3) by 25% per beverage by 2025, from a 2017 base year. 
  • They are on the CDP Climate Change and Water A lists and a member of the CDP Supply Chain group.
  • The SmartBarley tool developed by AB InBev has received international praise for helping to empower rural farming communities with technology and support.


At a glance:

  • 2019 revenue: $31 billion
  • Number of employees: 100,000
  • Headquarters: France

One of the most convincing claims to sustainability-fame that the French food-product corporation has is its commitment to B Corp certification. Danone North America is actually the world largest B Corp by revenue. In addition, the entire Danone umbrella has certified over 28 of its entities as B Corps, representing 45% of their total sales. The company’s ambition is to be a fully certified B Corp by 2025. This legally binding certification requires companies to consider the impact of their decisions on all of their stakeholders – workers, customers, supplies, and the environment. It also gives shareholders rights to hold officers and directors accountable for considering each of these stakeholder groups. Danone’s work in this space is helping to create a framework that will guide other for-profit multinational corporations towards B Corp certification. 

Sustainability resume: 

  • Danone is a key member of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance alongside industry peers such as Mars, Nestlé and Unilever.
  • The Danone Institute is an award winning non-profit arm of Danone that conducts research and promotes nutrition, healthy diets, and public wellbeing.
  • They are on the CDP Climate Change, Forestry and Water A lists. In 2020 only 16 companies were invited to the A list for Forestry.
  • Danone is committed to reducing scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 30 percent by 2030, from a 2015 base year. Danone also commits to reduce scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions per ton of sold product 50% by 2030, from a 2015 base year.

Jennifer Wong

Jennifer is the Head of Sustainability at Convoy, helping transportation leaders make progress against their environmental and social impact goals.
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