Sustainability Initiatives Making an Impact

In honor of Earth Day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is excited to share some of the latest initiatives and cross-sector partnerships aimed to steward the planet’s resources. 

The Chamber Foundation just kicked off an Economic Impact of the Circular Economy research initiative, in collaboration with research partner Navigant and leading organizations committed to the circular economy. The initiative evaluates how companies operating within certain sectors in the Great Lakes region of the United States can translate circular opportunities into business best practices that unlock new growth, competitiveness, and innovation. This circular economy research will generate a geographically relevant, sector-specific economic opportunity calculation; enable private and public stakeholders to make the business case internally for a circular transition through data; and provide the business community with examples of how and why leading companies are approaching this shift. 

Another area the Chamber Foundation is addressing is the urgent domestic recovery challenges left in the wake of China's National Sword policy restricting the import of contaminated recyclable materials. Our Beyond 34 initiative, highlighted in a blog response following this front page New York Times article, is a collective impact approach that addresses these challenges by catalyzing stakeholders from across the recycling value chain; equipping them with data on their region's current state of recycling; providing analysis of projects to advance diversion, sustainability, and economic growth; and mobilizing seed capital toward high impact implementation projects. We are expanding the initiative to a new region to be announced in May. 

The Chamber Foundation will be hosting the Fifth Annual Sustainability and Circular Economy Summit August 15 and 16 in Washington, D.C. This year’s agenda will include a combination of insights on how to form innovative cross-industry collaborations; execute on upcoming sustainability commitments; and anticipate and address the next frontier of sustainability issues. Speakers will go beyond the “what” of sustainability programs and priorities to explain the “how” behind implementing such initiatives within an organization.

Companies that have attended in the past include Covestro, Dow Chemical Company, DSM, Kohler, and Walmart. These companies are driving the circular economy, and demonstrate how the private sector can lead in resource stewardship. 

  • Covestro was awarded a gold rating in ratings agency EcoVadis’ 2019 survey, putting it in the top one percent of the 50,000 companies reviewed, in part because of its devotion to environmental protection, efforts made to improve working conditions, and sustainable measures implemented in procurement.
  • Dow is partnering with Keep America Beautiful to offer up to $125,000 in grants for organizations to establish the Hefty EnergyBag program in their communities. The program is an innovative approach to diverting hard-to-recycle plastics from landfill and converting them to valuable resources. Since its inception, the program has collected more than 536,700 bags and diverted 357 tons of hard-to-recycle plastics from landfill—the equivalent to eliminating 51 full trash trucks.
  • DSM has set new science-based reduction targets that have been reviewed and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative and are aligned with the Paris climate agreement. DSM is the first European company in its sector to join the leading almost 180 companies with validated science-based targets.
  • Kohler launched a new tile line under its surfacing subsidiary Ann Sacks called The Crackle Collection that is made from unfired pottery cull and other production cast-offs. This new line is made possible thanks to the Kohler WasteLAB, the company’s six-year-old sustainability initiative that innovates to turn production cast-offs into new tiles, tabletops, and buttons. 
  • Walmart announced a number of new initiatives and updates at its 2019 Sustainability Milestone Summit. For the very first time, the company announced it will offer reusable bags for purchase at U.S. store checkout carousels. The company also provided an update on Project Gigaton, its effort to avoid one billion metric tons of emissions from global value chains by 2030. Within the first two years of the initiative, suppliers avoided more than 93 million metric tons of emissions. 

We’re proud to be working alongside such an inspiring group of corporations committed to making a difference, on Earth Day and every day. 

[Editor’s Note: The above companies represent the Chamber Foundation’s Sustainability and Circular Economy Program Shape Leaders. Shape Leaders are those companies within our business network that partner with us to shape our programming, drive impact on priority issues, and lead by example. If you have a story to tell about your sustainability efforts and would like to get involved, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact to learn more.]