In the decade since Minnesota and other states passed regulations to curb landfill disposal and incineration of hazardous electronic waste, Best Buy has collected 2 billion pounds of appliances and electronics through e-waste recycling programs.
Best Buy also has purchased a fleet of hybrid cars for its Geek Squad staff and growing cadre of employees now making house calls. The company said the efforts have reduced its carbon emissions by more than 50 percent since 2009.
The Richfield-based retailer has also upgraded its stores and distribution centers with LED lights and more efficient heating and air-conditioning systems.
The company has received accolades for the work, most recently by the weekly financial newspaper, Barron's, which ranked it at the top of its list of companies that have put sustainability measures in place.
CEO Hubert Joly was eager to talk about the Barron's ranking because the methodology closely hews to the measures he has laid out for the company since taking over in 2012.
"It's a business imperative," Joly said Monday. "This is not about stuff that makes us feel good. … It's an integral element as to who we are as an organization."
The sustainability qualities of the top 1,000 publicly traded companies ranged broadly among such measures as greenhouse emissions, gender and racial diversity, commitment to community, paid leave and, of course, profits.
The Barron's ranking, now in its second year, was compiled by the research arm of Calvert, one of the most prominent names in marketing socially responsible investments.
Calvert scored the companies on 200 indicators and 28 issues. It then looked at how these measures impact shareholders, employees, customers, the planet and the community.
St. Paul-based Ecolab ranked 26th on the list of the 100 most sustainable companies; Target Corp. was 35th.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given Calvert's stake in promoting and measuring social responsibility, the research found that the investment in sustainable practices paid off for investors.
In 2018, as the Standard & Poor 500 lost 4.2 percent in value, the 100 most sustainable companies on the Barron's list lost just 3.2 percent. Best Buy, in fact, saw its stock price plummet 20 percent last year, yet still managed to lead the field.
With the windfall from changes to the corporate tax law, Best Buy created a range of new employee benefits, including expanded insurance coverage for mental health, paid leave and backup child care.
"The reason we do this is we want to invest in our people," Joly said.
Of the $2 billion the company cut in costs during a five-year turnaround, Joly said 80 percent "had nothing to do with head count."
Joly repeats often his mantra of being a "purpose-driven company," and his managers talk of it as well.
Sustainability, he said, is baked into every aspect of the business.
"Best Buy is not going to prosper if the world falls apart," he said.
Star Tribune librarian John Wareham contributed to this report. Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335 Twitter: @JackieCrosby