Mickey has the Environmentality.

Back in 2007, the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice was not very happy with the happiest place on Earth – Disney World, of course. A center spokeswoman claimed that the cleaning products utilized at its parks were not up to par with the environmental regulations. As a result, the group started a campaign to persuade the Walt Disney Co. to be “an environmentally responsible tourism-industry leader” by using “certified ‘green’ cleaning products and procedures.” Four years later, the Walt Disney Co. is now ranked as the 23rd “greenest” public company in the United States according to Newsweek. What changed?

Walt Disney himself stressed the importance of conserving natural resources and the environment, which still resonates today as a program known as Environmentality. Environmentality is defined as a “way of thinking, acting, and doing business in an environemntally conscientions way – from saving energy and water to reducing wate and other environmental impacts” (Allen 1).

In 2007, although the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice wasn’t pleased with the Walt Disney Co.’s usage of environmentally unsafe cleaning chemicals, the Walt Disney Co. was a lot more conscientious with energy conservation. According to a source titled “How Disney Saves Energy (Hint: It’s Not Magic),” energy management is the key to success at Disney. The article goes on to describe the energy management systems (EMS) used at Walt Disney World Resort, in particular. Energy management begins with the manufacturing guidelines Disney has outlined for its machinery. Disney wants easy-to-use, easily expandable, competitive and low-cost, and owner maintainable machinery so that it can keep utility costs down in the long run. Additionally, Disney has implemented a “report card” type system that provides constant feedback on utility performance, which can be filtered by Disney area. Disney hopes that this promotes a little bit of competition between the areas to manage energy usage. In conjunction with this idea, Disney also has an Energy Star Awards Program that recognizes and rewards successful conservation efforts based on a ranking system of the different areas. Furthermore, Disney really stresses the Environmentality notion that Walt Disney first expressed. As a reminder of this program, Disney created a guide called the Energy Star Tool Bag to help employees identify energy waste. A majority of the guidelines involve simple tasks, such as turning off machinery when not in use, regulating temperature, and so on. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t really go into detail about the results and consequences of their programs. However, the programs must have been effective enough to have an article written about them.

On March 9, 2009, the Walt Disney Company announced its first comprehensive environmental plan, which stems from its new corporate responsibility report. The company plans to “reduce emissions, waste, electricity and fuel use, and its impact on water and ecosystems” all within 3 to 5 years. The long-term goals outlined in the corporate responsibility report include:

  • Zero waste
  • Zero net direct greenhouse gas emissions from fuels
  • Reduce indirect greenhouse gas emissions from electricity consumption
  • Net positive impact on ecosystems
  • Minimize water use
  • Minimize product footprint
  • Inform, empower and activate positive action for the environment

Some efforts that have already been taken include “a Wall-E-inspired rideshare program that experienced an 18 percent increase among employees over a year, reclaiming water for landscaping, an 80 percent reuse of wood from sets, launching Disneynature, a documentary movie label, and a partnership with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund” (Cruger). However, Disney recognizes that its chief problem is the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions that stem from Disney’s theme parks, resorts and cruise ships. 91% of the company’s total greenhouse-gas emissions and 73% of Disney’s total electrical use are due to boilers, generators, refrigeration systems, cruise-ship engines and more. Consequently, if they are able to reduce any of those emissions, maybe the happiest place on Earth can share some of its happiness with the rest of the world.

P.S. To find my one chief source, I used Google Scholar, then its ‘cited by’ sources.


5 responses »

  1. Sarah says:

    So the environmental plan came out in 2009, do you have any idea how Disney is doing at it? Do you have any idea if they have met the goals? Some of the goals you have listed seem pretty lofty. For example the zero waste goal seems nearly impossible, especially for a public theme park. So much waste is produced by visitors to the parks that they can’t possibly eliminate it all. Just think of all the garbage from people eating at the parks, even if they use reusable containers there would still be food that is thrown out. I guess they could set up some form of composting system which might help eliminate food waste. But I still can’t wrap my head around zero waste! I wonder if there is any company in the USA that currently does not produce any waste. Between paper, food and other miscellaneous things people throw out each day it just does not seem possible.

    • Connie says:

      Sarah, I tried to find some scholarly sources about their progress so far, but I couldn’t find anything. I completely agree with your statement about how absurd the goals are. I’m not sure if even the most green, sustainable companies can attain ZERO waste! Maybe they were referring to waste that they’ve generated, not necessarily taking into account what their customers do with their product. Seems kind of wild and highly unlikely, but just a thought. But I’m with you – I wonder if any company has been able to successfully say that they’ve produced zero waste.

  2. Those are some lofty goals indeed.

    After reading your post and scanning the Allen article and comments by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice; I got to wondering how different Allen’s article (published in 2006) might be if it had been released after the 2007 report from the CHEJ. Or even how it would be written today. Kind of interesting to think how rapidly viewpoints can change based on public perceptions, 3rd party reports, and lofty (possibly unattainable) goals from the company itself.

  3. Marc says:

    That’s a pretty cool story about a company who saw the negative spotlight and turned things around. Disney gets a bad rap sometimes outside of the mainstream public eye, so it’s nice to see that they are doing things that are good for the planet. I find it interesting, especially after reading Jim’s post on P&G, that there are companies that are aiming for zero waste. Like you and Sarah have already said, it seems like that would be a very tough, if not, impossible goal to reach. I’m curious if these standards are either for publicity or just to have a super high goal to reach that makes sure that Disney is continually improving their efforts. Maybe by placing the ceiling high enough that they may not be able to touch it, they are ensuring that they’re always working.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Before reading your post I really have no idea that Disney is also active in the “going green campaign”. I like the idea of having the “report card” system and the star awards program to create competition among the areas and raise incentives for saving energy uses. But even if these policies sound like they’d be effective in the long run, I don’t think they’ll be enough to help the company reach the goal of zero waste or zero net direct greenhouse gas emissions from fuels. Like you said, 93% of their total greenhouse gas emissions come from their theme parks, resorts and cruise ships, which I think most of their profits come from. I’m wondering how are they going to be able to reach their corporate responsibility goals while still maintaining economic success. Maybe they can invest in some other projects that have less to do with electrical use. But either way, zero waste still sounds quite unrealistic to me

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