By Larkin Wynn August 11, 2016

Climate change is a huge problem that can often overwhelm us and make us believe that our individual actions will make little to no difference at all. Thankfully, major companies have begun to take climate change seriously and implement sustainability practices that collectively make a huge impact and set examples for the world to follow.

Google has cemented itself as a leader in environmental stewardship in the private sector. The corporation has been carbon neutral since 2007, long before many other organizations of its stature, and it is currently the largest corporate purchaser of renewables in the world. Google has focused on tackling sustainability in myriad ways, from repurposing old servers to prevent buying new machines and making their massive data centers more energy efficient. In their offices, Google offers its employees the largest corporate electric vehicle charging system in the nation as well as a transportation system of shuttles that run on biodiesel. These in-office improvements have not only made the company more sustainable overall but also helped make Google one of the most desirable places to work in America.

Starbucks has also been tackling sustainability on all fronts in their stores around the world. All around the world, Starbucks is aiming to create “green” stores, complete with LEED® certification, adjusting air-conditioning standards, incorporating low-flow water valves, and using cabinetry made with 90% post-industrial material. Many of Starbucks’ lofty company goals have already been met. In 2008, the company pledged to reduce water consumption by 25% by 2015 but made it to 26.5% reduction before the start of 2015. Starbucks joined the U.S. Green Building Council in 2001, and now over 850 of their stores spanning 20 countries have LEED® certification. What’s particularly interesting about Starbucks’ sustainability efforts is that 80% of their greenhouse gas emissions reductions come from their in-store efficiency efforts, proving that small changes can really add up.

Target also has set a comprehensive variety of sustainability goals for itself and holds itself accountable if those goals are not met. In their 2015 Sustainability Report, Target laid out 10 specific environmental goals for their company to meet by the end of the year, of which 7 were exceeded and 3 were not met. Some of their successes include an 11.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, cutting water usage by 17.1%, improving transportation efficiency by 36%, and even increasing their organic food options by a whopping 114% (far exceeding their 25% baseline goal).

These huge industry players have taken the initiative to alter their business practices to be sustainable and look to the future, setting examples for not just other companies around the world but for everyone. They analyzed their impact and sought effective ways to close gaps and make small changes that would add up in the long run, which is something we can all do in our daily lives. If companies as big as Google and Starbucks can streamline their massive operations in a sustainable manner, then what’s to stop you and I from making simple changes ourselves? For inspiration, check out our challenges and see how you can be part of defending our future.