As a sustainability consulting firm, we hear about a lot of different corporate sustainability strategies.  Many of these strategies involve following the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) framework, gathering stakeholder feedback and creating a system of goals, objectives and metrics to make operational progress over time.

But one of our favorite parts about sustainability is that it spurs innovation.

We searched high and low for some of the most creative ways that companies are doing well by doing good.  Here are our Top Ten:

In an effort to support those who generate innovative, optimistic ideas, the Pepsi Refresh Project will award more than $20 million in 2010 to move communities forward.  Individuals can apply for grants to benefit a variety of projects and site visitors can vote for the best ideas for funding.  The Pepsi Refresh Project is an evolution of the Refresh Everything initiative Pepsi launched in 2009, which showed the brand as an optimistic catalyst for idea creation, leading to an ever-refreshing world.   Pepsi will fund projects that make a difference in six categories: Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Neighborhoods and Education.

Tropicana is working with Cool Earth to preserve forest in the Ashaninka Corridor in Peru.  Throughout 2010, Tropicana consumers can redeem their Tropicana Juicy Rewards points to help save endangered rainforest from logging and deforestation. According to the Rescue the Rainforest website, each point redeemed will save 33 1/3 square feet of rainforest.

IBM has launched a new initiative, called Smarter Planet, for which it has three primary goals: Instrument the world’s systems, Interconnect them and Make them intelligent.  The overarching goal is to make the planet’s systems more efficient and generally smarter.  Subdivisions of the Smarter Planet initiative include: Smarter Energy, Smarter Banking, Smarter Healthcare and Smarter Cities.  Within these categories, there are a slew of subcategories, such as education, food, water and transportation systems.


Since its launch in 2005, Shell Springboard has awarded over 1.6 million British pounds to 43 small businesses across the U.K. – to help them to implement ideas to lower greenhouse gas emissions.  The idea behind the program is to invest in SME certified companies that want to help come up with solutions to climate change, because, according to Shell, it shouldn’t only be a big business opportunity.

Ford is developing pilot projects for sustainable mobility solutions in large urban areas, including: Cape Town, South Africa, Chennai, India, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Ford and the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Mobility and Accessibility Research and Transformation (SMART) program have been working since early 2007 to engage private-sector leaders, local thought leaders and government and transportation officials, as well as taxi, minibus and bike entrepreneurs, in planning for a network of mobility hubs. A hub is a transfer point where multiple mobility options and services come together. In turn, one hub connects with an integrated system of hubs to provide seamless, convenient, sustainable, safe and affordable door-to-door trips for everyone – rich and poor.

The insights from these pilot projects are contributing to a better understanding of sustainable mobility challenges and solutions.

Through its partnerships with major CPG companies, TerraCycle runs national programs that pay non-profits and schools to collect used packaging such as drink pouches, energy bar wrappers, yogurt cups, cookie wrappers, chip bags and more.  The collected materials are upcycled into affordable, high quality products ranging from tote bags and purses to shower curtains and kites.  By making products from these various waste streams, TerraCycle prevents 1000’s of tons of waste from going to landfills.

GE’s Ecomagination Challenge is a $200 million call to action for businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students to share their best ideas for how to build a power grid to meets the needs of the 21st century.  The three categories of the Challenge include: Renewables, Grid Efficiency and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings.

Walkers Crisps, a British product of Frito-Lay (which is a subsidiary of PepsiCo), is working with the Carbon Trust to reduce their carbon footprint and displays the carbon footprint of each product via a Carbon Reduction label on their packaging.  Walkers Crisps was one of the first companies to sign up for the Carbon Reduction label and is the only company to retain it 2 years later!

Better Place is working toward building the supporting infrastructure for electric vehicles, such as a network of charge spots, battery switch stations and systems that optimize the driving experience and minimize environmental impacts and cost.

General Motors was the first company in the world to introduce a significantly more benign refrigerant to replace the one currently used in auto air conditioning. The new refrigerant, called an HFO, has a global warming potential of just 4 compared to the global warming potential of over 1,400 that the current refrigerant, HFC-134a, boasts.  Use of the new refrigerant will start in 2013, with Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models sold in the U.S.

Honorable Mention: Notable Ideas

To get to our Top Ten list, we sorted through many extraordinary ideas, including whiskey distilleries running on algae-secreted energy, college students living on a dollar per day (on average), carpets that come in glue-free squares, carbon neutral cell phones, B2B waste-to-profit models and more.

We commend the creators of these ideas and encourage them to continue striving toward an ever more balanced triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic prosperity.

Reviewing all of these fascinating ideas has demonstrated to us at BrownFlynn, once again, what an amazing and progressive time it is that we are living in—a time when organizations and individuals alike are inspired by providing solutions to some of our planet’s most complex social and environmental challenges.

*To read about more innovative examples of CSR, read our series of articles on How Green Companies are Cashing In.