Top 10 UK’s Most Sustainable Big Businesses

most sustainable big business uk

As the UK progresses with its All-Country initiative to stop using too many plastic bags, SBT offers a list of best big business examples on how the environmental and social challenges are tackled by the pros!  


With the shire amount of initiatives undertaken by this mega-supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s must be on our list. The company runs food donation campaigns, helps international development across the globe with particular support in areas with clean water shortages, implements independent standards to monitor their entire supplier chains, even their HR is ahead of the government’s New National Wage initiative (with up to £7.36 per hour). They have put in place a Sustainability Plan, build on the foundation of 5 sets of values. These include: Leave healthier lives, Source with integrity, Respect our environment, Positively impact the community and Create a great place to work.  Sainsbury’s says these values help maintain the supermarket’s competitive edge and differentiate it for stakeholders.

Land Securities Group

Along with making Portsmouth a more desirable place to live and work, while reducing the number of cars in the city centre, the company has a number of exciting green projects around the UK. One of the most useful and easily applicable is Green roofing in Cardiff. Only imagine that 1.5 sq. metres of green roof generates sufficient oxygen per year for one person. But apart from cleaner air this green roof ‘technology’ has the potential to play a vital role in tackling issues surrounding climate change, including flooding, biodiversity loss and declining green space in urban areas.


Honestly reviewed their Think Big Youth programme this year, and we would like to thank them for their efforts and note some of the initiatives, which proven to be successful and will continue to make good in our society. One of the most impressive projects resulted in O2 backing up 5000 young people to lead community projects across the country. They also have supported 4000 young people to gain work skills and experience to help them get a job or start an enterprise, and through apprenticeships, O2 pleges to continue to support young people to get into work through training on the job.

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 by 2015. Plan A addresses three global challenges: the increasing pressure on finite resources, rising social inequality, and 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.


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. 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’ – meaning brands that contribute to one or more of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan goals and have a sustainable living purpose. 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.

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, or so they claim in their new report.

Carnival Corporation

Carnival has established 10 major goals for reducing its environmental footprint over the next five years, while enhancing the health, safety and security of its guests and the crew, and ensuring sustainable business practices across its brands, business partners and suppliers. 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.  Along with a $2.5 million donation to The Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s leading conservation organisations, to advance the preservation of the world’s oceans and seas, 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. 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.

BAE Systems (energy saving) 

Their Samlesbury site has developed an innovative ‘energy loop’ that connects the site’s heating and cooling systems and is expected to save energy, recycling waste energy from manufacturing machines and using 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.


The bank 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.

BG Group (Social responsibility) 

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.


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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