It’s a Small World After All: Sustainability at Disney Corporation

Donna M. Schaeffer, Cynthia Knott Eck and Raghu Srinivasan Raghaven

Marymount University, Arlington, VA 22207



The Walt Disney Company provides an interesting case study of sustainability. The company was founded in 1923 as a movie studio. Just short of a century later, the company’s holdings are diversified into media networks (including ABC and ESPN), 11 theme parks, over 50 resorts, and a cruise line, studio entertainment (movies, music, and theatre productions), consumer products, and interactive media. A few years ago, the corporation placed a focus on reducing their environmental footprint and inspiring their employees, business associates, and consumers to take action to help the planet. Their efforts have paid off, and in 2012, the company was selected to be on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.  At the same time, current media portrays unsafe factories and poor working conditions at Disney’s supply chain partners.


In this case study, we will describe Disney’s strategy in four areas with a focus on green information technology: the metrics and measurements the company relies on to show the business value of its sustainability efforts, what Disney is doing about electronic waste, how sustainability issues are factored in vendor management, and the steps that have been taken to make green computing and IT part of the corporate culture.


We conclude with some “quick wins” that other organizations can implement in order to get visible results.


“I’m going to Disneyland!”




(Phil Simms, New York Giants Super Bowl Champs, 1987)


·       Over 120 million people visit the Disney parks each year


·       Four cruise ships with total capacity of 16,000 passengers (3% of2012  cruise market)


·       Disney World Florida comprises over 30,000 acres


Earth Day, 1908





Dow Jones Sustainability Index


·       First appeared in 1999

·       Based on financial performance

·       Defines Corporate Sustainability as an approach to creating long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks deriving from economic, environmental and social trends and challenges

·       Looks at Supply Chain Management, Social and Environmental Reporting, Labor Practice Indicators & Human Rights, and Sector-specific criteria



Disney Metrics

·       Its Bottom Line:

o   6.6 percent decrease in electricity consumption since 2006

o   goal is a 10 percent reduction by 2013.

§  energy management systems

§  new lighting

§  updated heating, air condition and ventilation (HVAC) systems

o   disneyghg.jpg


Disney E-Waste

wall e.jpg

(Source: Walt Disney Company)


·       Host e-Recycling Events in local communities

·       Disney On Ice collected 100,000 lbs of Recyclable Electronics




Vendor Management


·       International Labor Standards

o   Disney-branded products are produced at 25,000 facilities in 100 countries      

o   1996 Code of Conduct for Manufacturers

o   Conducted close to 6,000 audits, often unannounced

·       Product Safety

·       Product Footprint

o   Sourcing of raw materials

o   Paper use

§  Minimize the consumption of paper

§  Eliminate paper products containing irresponsibly harvested fiber, such as fiber from High Conservation Value Areas

§  Maximize recycled content and fiber sourced from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forestry operations

§  Established conservation programs in 112 countries, including more than 70 projects in Indonesia to protect the Sumatran rainforest and work with villages to effectively manage critical forest habitats.

§  Invested more than $27 million in forest carbon projects in the United States, Peru, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, and China.


Green Culture


·       Money saving measure, e.g., ordering supplies electronically

·       Organization Chart has a Senior Vice President, Corporate Citizenship and a Senior Vice President, Conservation & Environmental Sustainability


Quick Wins