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Frito-Lay Goes Green: Companies Discover Benefits Beyond Helping The Environment (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 10/14/11 01:44 PM ET Updated: 12/14/11 05:12 AM ET

Big companies are discovering that going green does not just mean saving trees, but dollar bills, too. By becoming more sustainable, they are increasingly cutting costs and having a positive social impact.

Snack company Frito-Lay has recently unveiled one of the greenest manufacturing facilities in the U.S., called the Near Net Zero Facility. Senior Director of Sustainability Al Halverson, who headed the company's green effort, told The Huffington Post that the company spent 10 years reducing the environmental footprint at their 27-year-old building in Casa Grande, Ariz.

The company reduced 50 percent of its greenhouse gases so far as it works toward taking their production facility "off the grid."

Halverson said the company has almost reached all of its goals. "We are running the plant on landfill gas. We are burning wood waste in order to generate steam. We send less than one percent of waste to landfills. ... We are looking at upgrading our truck fleet. We have two electric trucks currently delivering locally."

Where it is economically viable, the company is looking to use this new building as a learning platform for introducing green practices to their other 36 plants around the country.

Phillips Lighting has also been working on sustainable projects, and received the 2011 Leader of Change Award by the Foundation for Social Change and the United Nations Office for Partnerships.

Harry Verhaar, senior director of Energy and Climate Change at Philips, told HuffPost that Philips Lighting, which makes use of LED technology in their products, was surprised and honored to receive the award.

"For about eight years, global warming has become a more prominent issue in the business sector. We've highlighted how relevant lighting is, since it contributes to 19 percent of global electricity and nine percent of global energy consumption," Verhaar said.

"In making lighting more efficient, we save money, we make an ecological contribution by preventing environmental degradation and carbon emissions and it also has social benefits. For example, we've found lighting improves the effectiveness in schools. So schools can reduce their energy bills, but mostly their learning effectiveness is improved and that is what schooling is all about," he said.

Philips Lighting North America CEO Zia Eftekhar added, "Much of this evolution process was the economic aspect -- to save money. By saving energy, the next aspect became the social consciousness and the environment. The most consequential part of that is what is the impact on lifestyle. For example, the city of Boston has gone through a whole change of their old technologies that brings in better visibility at night. So it isn't just saving energy, it is enhancing safety and comfort."

While some companies are making an effort to go green, a new tendency is emerging where companies "greenwash" consumers by claiming they are sustainable when they are not. The Nature Conservancy Chief External Affairs Officer Glenn Pickett told HuffPost there is an advantage for companies to increase their environmental performance, because it can save them money and win business as people become more inclined to buy green products, but some companies may not always follow through with their green claims.

He said transparency is key for consumers wanting to avoid being deceived, and used the work the Nature Conservancy was doing with DOW Chemical company as an example. "We're looking at opportunities for the company to see conserving nature as good for the environment and for their bottom line. And this will become more transparent as we work more on the project."

Dr. M. Sanjayan, lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy, added in an email to HuffPost that it is hard to pinpoint exactly what greenwashing looks like. "Labels are one obvious area," Sanjayan explained. "So when you see all these labels on consumer products and particular food products that claim green credentials or the word '100 percent biodegradable' on plastics -- where it takes say 100 years in full sunlight for that to actually happen."

Topping the 2011 Global 100 list for the most sustainable corporations in the world is energy company Statoil ASA in Norway. The list ranks corporations based on which has been the most proactive in managing environmental, social and governance issues.

Check out the slideshow below of some companies that say they are going green:

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Frito-Lay Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability Al Halvorsen highlights one of five solar installations at the company's Near Net Zero facility in Casa Grande, Arizona.

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