100 Most Sustainable U.S. Companies
July 15, 2019 8:44 PM   Subscribe

Best Buy tops the list of "most sustainable U.S. companies." Barron's and Calvert Research and Management teamed up to produce the list, culled from the 1,000 largest publicly held U.S. companies. The scores aren't based on only environmental sustainability. It's more about overall corporate responsibility.
posted by NotLost (44 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
To celebrate this landmark achievement, Best Buy will be changing its name to Best Recycle. /jk
posted by Autumnheart at 8:54 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]


I can't believe our local Best Buy is still in business...

Maybe they are doing better elsewhere. Good for them tho
posted by Windopaene at 8:59 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Also came in at #7 on Forbes’ list of Best Employers for Women.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:02 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


I also just saw that Forbes has the Just 100.
posted by NotLost at 9:09 PM on July 15


Having worked one summer at a Best Buy in the Midwest, let me just say:

Buh?!
posted by Ghidorah at 9:17 PM on July 15 [13 favorites]


I know we can quibble all day about individual entries on lists like this, but when I see the owner of YouTube at #3 on the Forbes "Just 100" list it really makes me question the whole enterprise.
posted by Umami Dearest at 9:17 PM on July 15 [19 favorites]


Like I know they had specific criteria for the Forbes Just List, but maybe they ought to add "Don't let yourself become the world's biggest recruitment tool for nazis and white supremacists" to their list of criteria.
posted by Umami Dearest at 9:23 PM on July 15 [17 favorites]


I think they had that rule originally, but then someone accidentally forgot the “Don’t”.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:53 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]


There's a recent change in leadership so hopefully they keep their momentum.

The former Best Buy CEO was from France. I think their blue polo shirts are cool. Probably the only time my poor fashion sense aligns with a Frenchman.
posted by mundo at 10:08 PM on July 15


Speaking from Canada, I wonder if it's because they're brazen enough to charge $12.99 for headphone cables. Not like fancy ones.

I feel like there are business plans, and then there are business plans where you can temporarily underwrite quite a lot of nonsense by virtue of having a lock on a segment of a market because you bought out all your retail competitors.
posted by figurant at 11:22 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Best Buy is great when you need something electronic RIGHT NOW. Like headphones or a car charger or a cable for the computer.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:11 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


I am another person faintly surprised at this. I live fifteen minutes’ walk from a store and think of them as a place to pick up DVDs for 40% higher prices than anywhere else. I have on my phone a screen capture of an ad that BB ran couple of years ago when they had folding tables on special for $329, reduced from the usual price of $369. I read the ad carefully to see if there was something I had overlooked at first glance but no, these were the same sort of tables that cost $30 or $35 elsewhere. Okay then.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:06 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Without getting into a 15,000-word essay on how retail works, the reason Best Buy was voted most sustainable is because of their efforts in electronics recycling, packaging waste, and carbon emissions reduction.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:21 AM on July 16 [14 favorites]


when you need something electronic RIGHT NOW.

Yeah, that's the only time I spend money there. Almost every time I go there, it's to recycle something. I'm glad they offer that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:12 AM on July 16


Best Buy is also handy, and this is probably why they're on this list, when you're getting rid of a bunch of electronic junk and you don't want to just throw it away.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:18 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I have on my phone a screen capture of an ad that BB ran couple of years ago when they had folding tables on special for $329, reduced from the usual price of $369. I read the ad carefully to see if there was something I had overlooked at first glance but no, these were the same sort of tables that cost $30 or $35 elsewhere. Okay then.

It always seems to me to be the kind of place that makes all of its money via corporate expense accounts. Like, the assistant doesn't want to fill out requisitions for ten different stores so they get the cheapish electronics and the $300 table at the same place.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:24 AM on July 16


Yeah, that’s not how retail works either.

If a company could make billions of dollars just on corporate expense accounts, they wouldn’t waste their time with running stores.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:29 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Forgive me, I mean purchasing / requisitions, although of course I still could be wrong. How do they make their money, generally?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:32 AM on July 16


I get that we are all cool and buy our stuff on line for five pence or something and only go into Best Buy to mock people who don't but maybe that is not the only thing to say about them and not the point of this piece?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:35 AM on July 16 [4 favorites]


Best Buy is great when you need something electronic RIGHT NOW. Like headphones or a car charger or a cable for the computer.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:11 PM on July 16 [1 favorite +] [!]


Radio Shack.
posted by saysthis at 5:38 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I usually go into a Best Buy when I need to recycle electronics. And I often come out with something as a result.

(plus, screw Amazon. At least Best Buy still gives people a job.)
posted by Vhanudux at 5:41 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I get that we are all cool and buy our stuff on line for five pence or something and only go into Best Buy to mock people who don't but maybe that is not the only thing to say about them and not the point of this piece?

What do you think the point of the piece is? With respect to the poster --- because it is super interesting --- to me the point of the piece is corporate advertising and/or puffery. The entire idea is to create a lot of metrics by which large, $$$ companies look good and then give them awards. Giving a sustainability award to various companies that are doing things that are inherently unsustainable because they are slightly less bad than each other is legitimately absurd.

Also absurd is pretending like CEOs get to just decide not to care about profits in order to do good things, a theme which is running through this article. That is mostly just not how publicly traded companies work.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:46 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I’m supposedly getting ready for work right now, but I’ll start with a high-level overview and can get more specific in a little while.

So in retail, the most expensive aspects are overhead, store space, distribution and shipping. Right? Stores are expensive ways to display products, employees are expensive, storing boxes of things is expensive. It’s way cheaper to have a website that allows customers to perform a lot/most of their research online so that they know what they want when they get in the store. It’s also a good source of analytics so that you know a) what your customers want to buy, b) the type of person the customer is, and c) where they are.

Why is that beneficial? Because then you can stop throwing darts at the wall by filling your expensive store with stuff people might want, and instead fill it with things people do want, specific to their demographic. If there’s a store in a town filled with retirees, then the store should carry a different range of products than a town where the primary population is, say, college students.

So the website is a very cost-effective method of sales, marketing and customer research. That’s a given. Secondly, in competition with places like Amazon, who built their business by touting a savings on overhead and sales tax that was significant enough to make an attractive difference in price, the answer over the years has been to push legislators to make Amazon charge sales tax (successful) and to match prices. These days, most major retailers have a policy where they will match a price on an identical item, which is to say the exact same model offered by the manufacturer, to a price being offered by another major retailer.

Third, differentiation is a good thing, and although I think people are being a little ironic about it in here, the fact that people want their stuff right now is actually Amazon’s biggest fail point and the biggest strength of brick-and-mortar retail. That’s why Amazon has been pushing into the physical retail space with Whole Foods, Amazon Lockers, same-day delivery and so on. Because when you get someone into a store, they will typically spend 40% more than if they buy online. For example, someone buys an iPad, and now they need a case, and a spare cable, and maybe they want some headphones. It’s a ton easier to attract people to buy those things in person than it is online.

And fourth, services. When you can cater to an entire customer life cycle, you develop brand loyalty and consumer trust. People are willing to spend a few extra bucks if they know that they’re getting a decent product or service, but even if they’re not, the convenience factor is also a selling point. You can buy a thing, have it installed, have someone fix it, trade it in or recycle it when it dies and get a new thing, so on and so on.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:48 AM on July 16 [14 favorites]


Super interesting, thank you!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:57 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Whether the award itself is bullshit or not is a matter of opinion, but this is one article which, though it focuses on Amazon, describes the challenges that retailers face with the ocean of cardboard and the logistics of storing and shipping boxes. As I said previously, both those things are extremely expensive, so it’s in everyone’s interest to maximize space and minimize paper waste as much as possible.

Recycling electronics and appliances is also a lucrative way to recapture materials and extend the life of products by refurbishing them. That’s why, when you take your busted iPhone into the Genius Bar, half the time they just give you a new one instead of fixing your old one.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:58 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


(I wasn’t kidding about that 15,000 word essay, I can go on all day if I’m allowed)
posted by Autumnheart at 5:59 AM on July 16 [4 favorites]


Recycling electronics and appliances is also a lucrative way to recapture materials and extend the life of products by refurbishing them. That’s why, when you take your busted iPhone into the Genius Bar, half the time they just give you a new one instead of fixing your old one.

Oooh. So they're internalizing the costs effectively. If you know, do you think that recycling/trash disposal becoming more expensive is going to affect this?

I have no idea if these are related, but I hear about typical recycling channels drying up (so to speak) and wonder if that'll change business practices to create more of these internal recycling channels. Obviously electronics have a lot of superexpensive parts in them and are small etc. (basically the opposite of a cardboard box), but still.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:04 AM on July 16


(I wasn’t kidding about that 15,000 word essay, I can go on all day if I’m allowed)

Also, no worries, basically same (about other stuff!) I love having people around who know what they're talking about :)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:05 AM on July 16


(I wasn’t kidding about that 15,000 word essay, I can go on all day if I’m allowed)
posted by Autumnheart at 9:59 PM on July 16 [+] [!]


If you're writing I'm reading. I'm very curious to know the specific economics behind

Recycling electronics and appliances is also a lucrative way to recapture materials and extend the life of products by refurbishing them. That’s why, when you take your busted iPhone into the Genius Bar, half the time they just give you a new one instead of fixing your old one.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:58 PM on July 16 [1 favorite +] [!]


and how Best Buy (or entities down the chain) move the recycled product.
posted by saysthis at 6:05 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Getting back to how Best Buy makes money, the three major innovations they’ve made have been to consolidate their niche (assisted by all their competitors conveniently going out of business), to build out the services arm, and to rethink the entire supply chain. One of the best things about having stores everywhere (the current statistic is, I think, 75% of the US population lives within 15 minutes of a store) is that they have inventory. Amazon has made news in the last several years by announcing where their fulfillment and distribution centers have been opening, but Best Buy (and Walmart, and others) have been able to elevate that an order of magnitude by investing in their inventory tracking systems and their online-to-in-store customer experience.

The customer shops online, sees that a product is available at a nearby store, buys it, waits for the text message and goes to get it. Or, it gets shipped from the store nearest them so it arrives within the next day or two without having to pay for 2-day shipping. Voila. Eat your heart out, Amazon.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:05 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Whether the award itself is bullshit or not is a matter of opinion

Thinking about it, I would rather that we have these things than not, because I'm sure CEOs or internal corp. stakeholders who do actually care about sustainability can use them as an excuse (marketing!) to actually do the right thing. So with apologies to Pink Floyd: puff on, you puffy diamond.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:08 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Best Buy is great when you need something electronic RIGHT NOW. Like headphones or a car charger or a cable for the computer.

It's also good when you think there's a chance you might need to return the item. There can be inconveniences in navigating the return process (especially for something big and fragile, like a nice TV) with an online seller, versus just putting it in the back seat and driving to the store. (I've been thinking about this because we are going to need a TV in the next year or so, and I'm almost certainly going to buy it at Costco or Best Buy for that reason.)
posted by Dip Flash at 6:21 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


All right, I’mma run to the office and be back in about an hour. To be continued: more than you ever wanted to know about the ever-evolving world of consumer products!
posted by Autumnheart at 6:31 AM on July 16 [6 favorites]


I went to Best Buy to buy my new computer (an all-in-one, which is not what I set out to buy). Being able to talk to someone, instead of googling and searching for answers to my questions, or putting a post on a random board somewhere, i spent 15 minutes talking to someone who was there to help and talk to me. It had to be ordered bc it was on sale and they were out, but was sent to my door two days later; good enough for me.

I definitely valued being able to speak to someone over maybe saving a few more bucks online. Glad to see they are making some steps to be sustainable (even if we are do for bounding leaps instead of baby steps).
posted by CPAGirl at 7:04 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


It's also good when you think there's a chance you might need to return the item. I am going through this with an Amazon purchase right now (affiliate I guess, like that means something important to me and not just to them). It seems like they are the scammiest bunch of scammers and Best Buy comparatively (they had to install the product) has been a gem.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:17 AM on July 16


This article (and the two Forbes links) are incredibly timely. I'm looking for a job! (askme post.) Iust got downsized. Instead of biting whatever hook is cast my way like I've done every time so far, I am going to do research about what the best companies are and try to work for one of them.

I'm very critical of these lists because in my experience, they rely entirely on self-report and self-assessment. Very little expense went into auditing actual processes or verifying reporting, I'm sure. But even still, if a company self-reports a score of 24.... that's saying something, right?

Can anyone suggest other, better lists of "places to work that do good"?
posted by rebent at 7:20 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


The implication that corporate out-performance is a result of corporate social responsibility is questionable. At least as likely is that out-performance gives managers the freedom to act in "responsible" ways while struggling companies have to triage down to more basic survival requirements. The next big recession will be an interesting test of 2010s CSR across many dimensions...
posted by MattD at 7:29 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


It always seems to me to be the kind of place that makes all of its money via corporate expense accounts. Like, the assistant doesn't want to fill out requisitions for ten different stores so they get the cheapish electronics and the $300 table at the same place.

I get this (and your subsequent clarification to purchasing/requisitions) but as someone who does not work in a big corporate environment, BB’s continued existence mystifies me. I actually went in to my nearby store to see what about these tables made them so remarkably pricy. Nothing special about them, but I did locate them in the Musical Instruments section, next to the coffee pots. I guess if you’re Stomp, sure.

(Actual conventional musical instruments such as guitars were located in the Peripherals section, next to the printers. Sure, I can see that.)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:30 AM on July 16 [4 favorites]


The third-party marketplace is a tricky space to navigate. Amazon's business model has been built on the idea of being the place where you can buy literally everything. And moreover, that you don't have to try very hard to shop for it. They've put tons of investment into their marketing where, whenever you search for a thing, there's a link back to Amazon where you can buy it, and that has been extraordinarily effective. Amazon's website has also become a pretty trusted site for product reviews, to the point where people will actually use it in a social media capacity, like the three wolf moon t-shirt or the Bic For Her pens.

The nice thing about this is that it lets people effectively navigate the website without having to actually navigate the website, since it doesn't take long to notice that trying to actually browse products and narrow down one's shopping options from the Amazon homepage is extremely unwieldy. You wind up with umpteen pages of results, many of which are similar products sold by third parties.

Best Buy, Target and Walmart have all tried third-party marketplaces in the past. I'm not up on which retailers besides Amazon still uses one (just looking at their sites, Target doesn't, but Walmart does), but Best Buy doesn't anymore for the following reasons: it dilutes the brand because it's hard to make clear to customers that they're buying third-party vs. a Best Buy product, it basically makes you compete with yourself on your own site, and there's also the issue of product reliability. Amazon's third-party marketplace has a growing counterfeit problem, and there have been plenty of customer complaints where they thought they were buying a new product specifically from Amazon, and wound up with an item that is clearly fake, a previous customer return, refurbished or whatever. And as others have pointed out, the return process can be tricky, and there's no way to know whether your warranty will be honored, or how you go about making a warranty claim. Do you have to pay to ship the product back? Do you send it to Amazon or the manufacturer? It can be a hassle. Back in the days when you were saving 20-30% over brick-and-mortar prices because of the combination of cheap shipping and no sales tax, that might be a worthwhile trade-off. But that incentive has been largely eliminated for new products.

On a purely speculative note, I personally can't tell if Amazon has plans to address that. Is it more profitable for Amazon to work on their product integrity, or to take their cut from third-party resellers and just give customers a refund without requiring them to send the item back? (Which means the customer has to figure out how to get rid of it, not Amazon.) Amazon has been famously opaque about where their money actually comes from and where it actually goes. And they're also widely diversified and definitely expanding their footprint in infrastructure, so maybe their need to court customer trust at the retail level isn't as high a priority as it is for other retailers, who depend on that as their primary revenue stream.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:35 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


@ricochet biscuit, where is the store, and which table are you talking about?
posted by Autumnheart at 8:40 AM on July 16


Generally speaking, prices are decided as inventory agreements are made, so it's an ongoing process that happens throughout the year. I'm not saying that it's not possible that maybe there's a $35 table that a store's trying to sell for $350, but that seems highly unlikely for the following reasons:

1. Best Buy would lose tons of money, because anyone would just bring in the $35 price from any other store and match it
2. Or Best Buy just wouldn't sell any, and lose tons of money clearancing out all the expensive tables, which is not something they're likely to try more than once
3. Buyers aren't just going to agree to sell a table for $350 without doing their research on what the table is likely to actually sell for, including seeing what it sells for at other places, because that would be silly, and they would be personally accountable for buying inventory at an inflated price

So presumably this table looks cheap but is actually not in some way, or sold for $350 everywhere, or the cheap table did a heck of a job imitating the design of the expensive table. Or, there really was a mistake in the print ad. But without knowing exactly which table and what store...it's hard to say.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:01 AM on July 16


Here ya go. Now reduced to to $229.99.

Here is a seemingly identical table for $49.99just down the street. Or elsewhere for $79.99. (This is all in southern Ontario, just outside Toronto.)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:05 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Canada. (Fort Frances, hey, I've been there.) Yeah, that's a different ball of wax. Looks like that table is sold under multiple brands (Cosco, OfficeStar, For Living) but are basically the same table. Welp, if you can find a major retailer that sells the same table with the same model number (BT6FQ) then you should be able to get a price match.

But both Best Buy Canada and Best Buy Mexico are essentially independently-run companies who share the branding. Different inventory, different policies, different platforms. You wouldn't be able to buy something in the US and return it in Canada, either. They just don't overlap.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:53 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


One of the things that I gather has proven difficult for the retailers' online services is having a legitimate store inventory and not just a carried over inventory from the last time they did a full count of the shelves. That definitely takes the shine off of looking to see if walmart or target have something in stock before making a trip - discovering that oops! they don't actually have it in stock, sah-reeeee.

Best Buy tends to be a bit better, at least.
posted by Kyol at 8:03 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


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