Global 100 is a list of the most sustainable businesses in the world published by Corporate Knights, a Toronto-based magazine focused on clean capitalism, an economic system in which prices incorporate social, economic and ecological benefits and costs.
I immediately wondered how sustainability was measured and if there was any science behind the rankings. Is this just a feel-good assessment of corporate good citizenship or is there really something to it?
“In a year in which Wall Street was occupied and capitalism became a bad word, the Global 100 companies serve as ambassadors for a better, cleaner kind of capitalism which, it also turns out, is more profitable,” said Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights.
Since 2005, Global 100 companies have achieved a total return of 41.70 percent, outperforming the MSCI All Country World Index by more than 11 percent, according to a CK website.
One of the things I like about Global 100 is its focus on profitability and efficiency. Metrics are expressed in terms of profit generated vis-a-vis bad things. How much money was made with x pounds of carbon emissions, etc.
So what about the science?
As it turns out, there is an independent rating consultancy, SustainAbility, that recently rated Global 100 and 21 of its peers (who knew there we so many?), and recognized Global 100 for its industry-leading standard of transparency and objectivity.
And the companies on the list?
Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical firm, topped the list with some impressive clean capitalism including placing in the top quartile in energy productivity ($4,851 in revenue generated per unit of energy consumption, compared to a pharmaceutical sector average of $3,603), carbon productivity ($68,585 in revenue generated per unit of carbon emitted, compared to a pharmaceutical sector average of $56,414) and pay equity (CEO/average employee remuneration ratio of 15 vs. a pharmaceutical sector average of 93).
This is the focus that sustainability champions must take, I feel, if they hope to win hearts and minds. The key is to point out the true costs of actions.
What about American companies? Eight made the list, including two in the top 20:
15. Life Technologies Corp.
18. Intel Corp.
59. Agilent Technologies, Inc.
64. Johnson Controls, Inc.
66. Proctor & Gamble Co.
69. International Business Machines Corp.
86. Baxter International, Inc.