An Earth Day Q&A with Best Buy’s Chief Sustainability Officer

On Saturday, millions of people around the world will celebrate Earth Day, bringing added awareness to efforts to protect our planet. But that’s a year-round focus for Laura Bishop, Best Buy’s chief corporate responsibility and sustainability officer, and her team.

Laura joined Best Buy in 2003 to help launch the company’s government relations team, a role in which she helped shape environmental recycling laws across the country. She has led the company’s sustainability efforts for the past three-and-a-half years and recently was promoted to her current role.

Sustainability is a top priority at Best Buy. In recent years, we have helped our customers recycle more than 1 billion pounds of e-waste and reduced our carbon footprint by 47 percent. We’ve been an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year for four straight years, and our leadership role in positively impacting our world was one of the five pillars in our recently completed Renew Blue transformation.

The Best Buy Blog sat down with Laura this week to learn more about her role and the company’s corporate responsibility and sustainability efforts.

 

First off, tell us a little bit about your new role as chief corporate responsibility and sustainability officer at Best Buy. What do you do?

We look at it in three major buckets of work. Environmental sustainability and compliance sets the vision for where we want to be as an environmentally responsible company and tracks our results. Social responsibility oversees our factories in China to ensure we’re manufacturing our private label products ethically and in an environmentally responsible way. And, finally, community relations includes all of our philanthropy and volunteerism.

It’s really about harnessing the goodwill of the company in a concentrated way. Our company is based on values-driven leadership and doing the right thing for the broader community good. So we look across our business for ways to support and highlight efforts where the company is doing well for our communities, the business, people and the environment.

 

Why is sustainability important to Best Buy?

We want to make sure we’re doing what’s right — not only by the letter of the law, but also that we’re staying ahead of it to ensure we remain a leader on environmental issues. We don’t just want to respond to regulations that are coming down the pike. We want to make sure we’re envisioning what might be coming and help lead in those areas..

We know environmental initiatives are not only good for the environment, but they’re good for our company as well. For example, we set a goal to reduce our carbon footprint 45 percent by 2020, and we’re already ahead of schedule and expecting to exceed this goal. This commitment saves the company millions of dollars a year, and we can invest those savings into things like our new Geek Squad fleet. We converted 1,000 cars to hybrid vehicles last year, and that’s reducing emissions and saving us money on gas. It makes sense for the environment and for our business. Those two things shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

 

Sustainability can include so many topics. How does Best Buy decide where to focus its efforts?

When you can find the intersection where your customers, your business interests and the larger community needs align, I think your voice becomes meaningful and authentic. It all goes together.

There are three areas where we thought we could really lead, so we’re concentrating on:

  1. Our recycling program. And it’s not just about recycling. We help repair, reuse and recycle tech products. You can bring in products for repair, we let you trade in your products to give them a second life and then we’ll recycle them if they’re at the end of life. There was a community need, customers were asking for a solution and there was a business need because we could fulfill that.
  2. Our carbon goal and our carbon-reduction effort. We’ve done lighting retrofits in our stores and switched to hybrid fleet vehicles. Now we’re looking at a greater use of renewables to help bring that along. Being a responsible business was something our customers and communities were asking for, and the business interest was clear because we know inclement weather affects our stores and our viability as a company.
  3. Product sustainability. Customers want the latest tech, and they like green tech, too. Smart home products are becoming more and more popular, and we can play a unique role in providing those — and a wide assortment of ENERGY STAR products — to our customers.

 

You have a team in China, right? So is this actually an international effort?

Our team in China works with our private-label factories to improve their business practices, both from a labor and environmental standpoint. And the team is also really involved in our communities there. China is a country that is looking more and more at its own environmental footprint, and we support that effort by partnering with local elementary schools to teach kids about environmental sustainability.

 

What do you consider Best Buy’s biggest success to date? What are you most proud of?

Throughout our Renew Blue transformation, one of our pillars was always to positively impact our world. We never lost sight of that commitment to sustainability and to our communities, even at a time when we were looking at every cost and everything we could do to operate more efficiently. That’s authentic to who we are, and I’m really proud of that.

 

What are your goals moving forward?

Whether it’s our recycling program or our efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change in our business or helping our customers live more sustainably, these are all areas where we can lead and continue to show our commitment. We’ve already exceeded our carbon goal, so we’ll update that. We’re also looking for ways to use more renewable energy, and we want to expand our assortment of sustainable products available to consumers. We want to not only be a sustainable company, but also to help our customers live sustainably as well.

 

To learn more about Best Buy’s year-round efforts to protect our environment, click here to view our 2016 Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Report.