10 of the UK’s Most Sustainable Big Businesses

most sustainable big business uk

Sustainable business is relevant to all of us. It is important to shop at businesses that value sustainability and do their best to help the environment. 

Below is a list of the most sustainable big businesses in the UK. See how the pros approach sustainability and corporate social responsibility and help the planet by making the right choice! 

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10 of the Most Sustainable Business Businesses in the UK

1. Sainsbury's

With the sheer amount of initiatives undertaken by this mega-supermarket chain, Sainsbury's is number one on our list for the most sustainable businesses in the UK.

Most Sustainable Big Businesses UK

Below are a few corporate social responsibility initiatives they leverage. For instance, the company:

  • runs food donation campaigns,
  • helps with clean water projects around the globe, 
  • implements independent standards to monitor their entire supply chain, and
  • pays above the minimum stanard. 

Similarly, they implemented a Sustainability Plan built on the foundation of 5 sets of values.  

  1. Lead healthier lives, 
  2. Source with integrity, 
  3. Respect our environment,
  4. Positively impact the community, and
  5. Create a great place to work.  

Sainsbury's says these values help maintain the supermarket's competitive edge and differentiate it for stakeholders.

2. Land Securities Group

Most Sustainable Big Businesses UK

Land Securities Group has a number of exciting green projects around the UK.

For example, they made Portsmouth a more desirable place to live and work and reduce the number of cars in the city centre.

Additionally, they implemented green roofing in Cardiff. Through their system, 1.5 sq. metres of green roof generates enough for one person per year! 

Most Sustainable Big Businesses UK

This green roof 'technology' can play a vital role in tackling issues surrounding climate change, including flooding, biodiversity loss and declining green space in urban areas.

3. O2

O2 is well known for their Think Big Youth programme. Initiatives like these are successful and will continue to make good in our society.

Furthermore, one of their most impressive projects resulted in O2 backing up 5000 young people to lead community projects across the country.

Also, they also have supported 4000 young people to gain work skills and experience to help them get a job or start an enterprise.

Most Sustainable Big Businesses UK

 Additionally, O2 has pledged to continue to support young people to join the workforce through apprenticeships.

4. Marks and Spencer

Perhaps one of the best-known corporate sustainability initiatives, Marks and Spencer launched Plan A 2020 in 2007 with the ultimate goal of becoming the world's most sustainable major retailer.

Most Sustainable Big Businesses UK

Plan A addresses three global challenges:

  1. the increasing pressure on finite resources,
  2. rising social inequality, and
  3. the need for healthier, more sustainable lifestyles.

On 1 January 2012 all M&S operated stores, offices, warehouses and delivery fleets in the UK and Republic of Ireland became carbon neutral, and according to their 2015 report they managed to save £2.8 bln plastic bags raising £60 mln for various charities. Incredible! 

5. Unilever

Four years into its ambitious and wide-ranging Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever says it is making a growing and positive impact on its business in terms of growth, cost efficiency and resilience for the future.

Most Sustainable Big Businesses UK

That is why it is number 5 on our list of the most sustainable businesses in the UK.

At a time when more and more companies are talking about ‘brands with purpose’, Unilever has put some definition and measurement behind what it calls ‘sustainable living brands’.  Sustainable living brands refers to brands that contribute to one or more of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan goals and have a sustainable living purpose.

  • For instance, more than 55% of Unilever’s agricultural raw materials are now sustainably sourced
  • It has achieved its target of zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its factory network, and
  • is making significant reductions in CO2 from energy and water in manufacturing, reducing them by 37% and 32% per tonne of production respectively since 2008. 

‘Sustainable living brands’, such as Dove, Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry’s, and Comfort, now represent half of Unilever’s growth and are growing twice as fast as its other brands.

6. Scottish and Southern Energy

As the UK's fast growing energy supplier, SSE is expected to provide more sustainable energy by investing over one and a half billion pounds into modernising, upgrading and maintaining new energy systems in 2016.

They are also heavily investing into their staff by offering them the Living Wage and support new generation of young people by running the strongest apprenticeship programme in the country, per their new report.

7. Carnival Corporation

Carnival has established 10 major goals for reducing its environmental footprint over the next five years.

  • They are also working to enhace the health, safety and security of its guests and the crew.
  • Lastly, they are ensuring sustainable business practices across its brands, business partners and suppliers. 
Most Sustainable Big Businesses UK

According to the Carnival's 2020 sustainability goals it has made a $400 million investment to develop, deploy and operate exhaust gas cleaning systems that reduce sulfur compounds and particular matter from the ships' engine exhaust.  

They recently made a $2.5 million donation to The Nature Conservancy, one of the world's leading conservation organisations.

Also, in June 2015, the company launched Fathom, a new travel category called social impact travel. 

  • Fathom is a different kind of cruise that combines the love of travel with a desire to make a difference and advance the preservation of the world's oceans and seas.
  • The new brand seeks to develop lasting social impact partnerships that allow for meaningful enrichment of the traveler, while providing systematic, long-term educational, environmental and economic development benefits in its partner countries.

8. BAE Systems  

BAE Systems Samlesbury site developed an innovative ‘energy loop’ that connects the site’s heating and cooling systems.

It is expected to:

  • save energy,
  • recycle waste energy from manufacturing machines, and
  • use it to heat offices and staff amenities.

An initial trial produced enough energy to heat 60 houses using just 5% of the energy used by the previous heating system!  


The team responsible received an Innovation in the Built Environment award from the Green Organisation for their work.

9. Barclays

Barclays has been working hard on reducing their carbon emissions, detailed in the Barclays PLC Annual Report 2014.

In 2015 they reduced their carbon emissions by 21.7%, exceeding the initial 10% target.

Banks have an integral role to play in the acceleration to a sustainable low carbon economy.

As a key founder of the Banking Environment Initiative, Barclays recognises the need for cross-sector collaboration in search for solutions.

The Banking Environment Initiative aims to lead the banking industry in collectively directing capital towards environmentally and socially sustainable economic development.

10. BG Group

Together with the Science Museum London, they continue to establish long-term relationships between the museum and schools–engaging young people from diverse backgrounds with an integrated programme of activities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics delivered over one academic year.

Since 2011, this programme has worked with more than 1,000 students across 22 schools in the UK, and is now reaching out to Brazil and Australia.

Do you have more examples of the most sustainable big businesses in the UK? Let us know in the comments below!

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About the Author Jess Nielsen

Jess has spent years travelling the world full-time. Nothing else comes close to the reaches of this emotive activity...

Leave a Comment:

Matt Workman says September 4, 2017

Please may you tell me when this article was published? (Apologies if this information is given & I’ve missed it!)

    Mark Whitman says September 6, 2017

    Hey Mat, January 8th 2016. All the best!

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