Some of the world’s largest companies are helping to drive change through alternative ways of disposing of waste. At Fortune’s Brainstorm E conference in Carlsbad, Calif. on Monday, the chief sustainability officers of Ikea, Walmart and Coca-Cola discussed what they’re doing to improve their companies’ and consumers’ environmental footprints.
Ikea: This company has instituted a “save the furniture program” in Belgium. People bring in old furniture, are given a voucher, and Ikea then sells the furniture for the same price that is on that voucher. Chief sustainability officer Steve Howard says that the company will implement a U.S. pilot program next year, which won’t be just for Ikea furniture but for all furniture. Ikea has made energy a big focus. The company is also driving consumer behavior by selling solar panels and exclusively LED light bulbs in its stores.
Walmart: As the biggest seller of groceries in the U.S., Walmart has taken a close look at inefficiencies within the food system. The company has changed “best by” or “sell by” dates on its products to “best used by” dates to make it clearer to consumers when food has gone bad, which cuts back on food waste, says Walmart chief sustainability officer Kathleen McLaughlin. The retailer now takes 25,000 tractor-trailer loads of food waste to anaerobic digesters, which saves it from going into landfills and instead converts the tossed food into biogas.
Coca-Cola: The beverage company is looking at technology that would let it reuse water in every aspect of production. Pilot programs have reduced water by 30%, says Coca-Cola chief sustainability officer Bea Perez. But she notes that the company can push the technology and dialogue, but still needs to follow the consumer, and is therefore grappling with the question of whether consumers would be willing to drink it.