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Meet me in the middle: Why businesses are making sustainability commitments and why you should care

Recently on Earth Day, we told Surgers about the climate neutrality commitments that Shedd and 23 other aquariums in North America have made.

Shedd Aquarium is committed to establishing a science-driven plan to achieve carbon neutrality within our business practices. This includes creating a greenhouse gas inventory to serve as a baseline against which our carbon neutrality strategies are measured over time. Shedd will establish on-going monitoring and an associated emissions reduction plan within our business practices. This effort is part of a larger sustainability effort that includes reductions in waste, regenerative horticultural and animal care practices, and innovative water management solutions.

Solar panels were installed on the terraced roof of Shedd's Oceanarium, set in curved rows.

Not our first rodeo

This isn’t Shedd’s first sustainability commitment. In fact, over the years we have made several other commitments around efforts like plastic reduction, water conservation and energy efficiency with great success and sometimes with some backsliding. But we’ve continued to stay the course, measuring our progress and challenges over time and celebrating our achievements along the way.

“For Shedd, sustainability is part of how we do business. We will continue to invest in solar energy, we have a great water conservation plan, and we prioritize waste reduction as we move toward a circular economy—all to take care of our home. It's our responsibility to do that. We also try to align with vendors who share our values,” said Bob Wengel, Shedd’s senior vice president of facilities and security. “It's also critical for us to look around and see how the world is changing and how we can stay innovative. For example, we’re looking at how the energy grid in Chicago and the Midwest is changing, and we’re planning ahead for a more sustainable and energy-efficient future.”

Why do these types of commitments matter and why should you care?

Business-level commitments are important to shift our collective society toward better practices—and they can be good for business, too. Some benefits of these commitments include:

  • Urges business leadership and employees to agree on and set measurable targets that can be tracked over time
  • Communicates to customers that you care and are “walking the talk,” can strengthen your brand and build respect for your business
  • Enables accountability and transparency with the public
  • Makes waves, urges other businesses to make commitments

While sustainability commitments can make an impact for a brand and for the environment, it’s important that businesses avoid greenwashing or making commitments that are not meaningful. Greenwashing can hurt public confidence in business sustainability and can allow businesses to skirt around real change toward more environmentally friendly practices.

Do you work at a business that has made a sustainability commitment? Do you choose to spend your money with businesses that prioritize sustainability? We’d love to hear about it—share your story at [email protected].