The Dow Goes Green

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When you're thinking of innovative companies taking steps to support the environment, the members of the venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) may not be the first ones that come to mind. But as corporate leaders, these companies aren't stuck in the past but rather must continually look forward to stay on the cutting edge of their industries and continue to drive positive change ahead of their competition.

For some companies, working out ways to operate more efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner is just good business. For others, striving for new environmental advancement is their business. Let's take a closer look at four Dow stocks that are taking strides forward in the green movement -- and will probably continue to do so in the future.

IBM has long been at the forefront of environmental awareness, and over the past 40 years, the company has spearheaded a number of green initiatives. For instance, in 1989, the company offered its first program designed to take back used machinery and recycle it. The next year, the company issued its first annual corporate report on the environment, and over the ensuing years it began a host of programs ranging from employee flex-time and work-from-home arrangements to eliminating harmful chemicals from products and packaging materials.

IBM takes care to measure its impact every year. In its most recent environmental report, the company estimated its environmental savings and cost avoidance at $138 million -- figures that it argues demonstrate the value of environmental awareness.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  )
HP has focused its green plans into its 2009 Global Workplace Initiative. The plan involves reducing the environmental impact of HP's operations, ranging from reducing the amount of space the company uses to reducing waste and water consumption. Much of HP's work has focused on its facilities, which increasingly include using environmentally friendly building materials and obtaining LEED certifications for its building projects.

But HP goes beyond its own fences, taking steps to make its products greener as well. With the removal of mercury from laptops, the company is ensuring that obsolete technology that ends up in landfills won't endanger the environment.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  )
Similar to HP, J&J has a set of goals,which it calls Healthy Future 2015. Its strategic points include advancing community wellness, reducing the impact of its businesses, and training employees and community members to be environmentally aware in their actions.

But perhaps more importantly, J&J specifically looks to foster its sustainability beliefs throughout its supply chain as well. That's a key component that many companies dismiss, arguing that they can only control things within their own operations. For J&J, though, it's an essential part of taking responsibility for the whole of its actions.

Disney (NYSE: DIS  )
Disney has launched a number of programs aimed at green initiatives. Its Friends for Change: Project Green program uses its media outlets to coordinate a message aimed at youth that encourages cooperation and collaboration toward improving the environment. Similarly, Disney's Planet Challenge targets late-elementary-school students in a competitive atmosphere that encourages environmental stewardship.

More broadly, Disney's Worldwide Conservation Fund builds collaborative partnerships with nonprofit organizations at the local and global level, with the end goal of finding ways for communities to exist within their ecosystems in a sustainable manner. Disney has a unique ability to reach out to young people during their formative years, helping to mold environmentally aware citizens for generations to come.

Be green
Admittedly, most companies are far from perfect in being perfect stewards of the planet. But for these companies and many others that are starting to follow in their footsteps, being green isn't just about doing good at the expense of doing business. By incorporating green initiatives into their businesses, these companies have gone far toward establishing truly sustainable practices that should survive and develop further well into the future.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson, IBM, and Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Disney and Johnson & Johnson, as well as creating a diagonal call position in Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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