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Sustainability has become a must-do for companies big and small

Multinationals Abbott and Salesforce Ireland have been embedding plans to reduce or eliminate their carbon footprints, both home and abroad

Sustainability is no longer a mere buzzword but has become a must-do for the world’s biggest companies to the smallest. Multinationals are under particular scrutiny, however, and this is a pressure they are more than aware of.

As global organisations pledge to reduce or eliminate their carbon footprints, the concept of big corporates becoming more sustainable across their entire value chain is becoming a reality as they take tangible steps to transform how they once operated.

For example, Apple announced in recent months that it is to begin modifying executive bonuses based on environmental values, while a recent survey found that 78 per cent of multinationals are planning to remove all suppliers that endanger their carbon transition plan by 2025.

With Ireland home to a large number of multinationals, we asked a couple what their plans were when it comes to embedding sustainability into their operations, both home and abroad.



As one of the largest multinational employers in Ireland, Abbott were also among the first to establish a presence here. This year the organisation will celebrate 75 years of calling Ireland our home, says Conor Murphy, site director, Abbott's Diagnostics Division in Longford. Its 4,000 people in Ireland have been committed to working in a sustainable fashion for many of those years.

“Looking ahead, the company is striving to working to do even more,” says Murphy.

When it comes to the basics, the medical devices company has gone far beyond recycling bins and compostable coffee cups in the office – Murphy says they are working across their entire operations as well as with key suppliers in Ireland to conserve water and address climate change by reducing carbon emissions and expanding renewable energy.

“And we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our product packaging and minimising waste in our operations through reuse and recycling.”

Murphy says Abbott’s 2030 Sustainability Plan has forward-looking targets across its business, from protecting the environment, to operating responsibly, to building the workforce of tomorrow.

“But the greatest contribution Abbott can make – and the one we are clearly prioritising in our sustainability strategy – is through our core work to improve health. We want to reach more people, in more places than ever before, with a focus on designing access and affordability into our life-changing technologies and products, and breaking down barriers that prevent people from getting the care they need.”

Murphy also views sustainability more broadly, emphasising the community work that Abbott is committed to.

“Here in Ireland, as around the world, we have a strong culture of giving and commitment to supporting our community. Over the last decade our Irish employees have delivered more than 80,000 volunteer hours to good causes across the country, with efforts focused on advancing STEM and health education to inspire a diverse and innovative next generation.

“We are passionate about supporting young people and education because we will rely on the innovation, creativity and imagination of scientists and engineers to continue to meet the future challenges of healthcare.

“For the last three years we have run our ASPIRE with Abbott event series which demonstrates the many exciting pathways that STEM education opens up. This became virtual in 2020, offering every school in Ireland the chance to join. And our Future Well Kids programme partners with local schools and empowers students to develop healthy habits today, so they can reduce their risk of getting diabetes and heart disease when they are older.”


Sustainability can mean a change of ethos – for Salesforce Ireland this means they consider the environment a "key stakeholder", says Dr David Dempsey, country leader and general manager.

“We consider the environment to be a key stakeholder. Our environmental programme focuses on the global journey to net-zero emissions, mobilising the global effort to see an additional trillion trees on Earth, and protecting and revitalising our oceans,” he says.

But this is not a recent reckoning for the customer relationship management giant. According to Dempsey, Salesforce has actively pursued sustainable development in Ireland and across the world for many years now.

“Salesforce is a net-zero operations company and delivers a carbon neutral cloud for customers. In 2020 we launched the Salesforce Sustainability Cloud, a carbon accounting product for businesses and governments to track and manage their greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Irish base is also proud to partner with Seal Rescue Ireland, Ireland’s only seal rescue centre, to plant 20,000 native trees in various communities in the southeast of Ireland. “Tree-planting has become a large focus in Seal Rescue Ireland’s proactive conservation efforts. It will help to combat climate change whilst having a direct impact on improving the environment and lifespan for seals and other species,” says Dempsey.

He also says hat Salesforce Tower Dublin, in the heart of the Silicon Docks, will soon become their Irish home.

“This will be one of Ireland’s most sustainable office buildings and one of our most sustainable buildings worldwide to date. We’ll be sourcing 100 per cent renewable energy with onsite solar and battery storage to offset peak energy loads.

“The roof will be planted to sequester carbon. And, as well as providing some greenery here in the city centre, our new building will also be home to honey bees as part of Trinity College’s bee conservation initiative.”

Dempsey says it is now of “vital importance” for businesses to become climate advocates.

“We’re facing irreparable harm to our planet, so we need all businesses to use not only their influence but also their core competencies and rapid innovation to create solutions that will tackle climate change.”

Danielle Barron

Danielle Barron is a contributor to The Irish Times