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The Eco-Friendly Industry

October 25th, 2011|Tags: |

By Katrina Marland

Credit: Flickr/epSos.de

Last week, Newsweek released its green rankings for 2011, identifying the world’s top 500 eco-friendly companies. Such a massive undertaking requires a bit of help, so the rankings are created in cooperation with two major environmental research organizations. As someone who tries to be environmentally conscious when shopping, I wanted to learn more.

Each company is ranked according to their overall Green Score, which is determined by a combination of individual scores. First is the Environmental Impact Score, which reflects the company’s comprehensive environmental footprint, including everything from carbon emissions to water use to waste disposal. Next comes the Environmental Management Score, which determines the quality of the company’s practices, such as the contractors they hire or the goals of their environmental policies. Last in line is the Disclosure Score, which assesses how accurately and completely the companies report their environmental impacts and practices.

Though the rankings feature the top 500 global companies, I was more intrigued to see the top U.S. companies and how they got to the top of that list. So here are some highlights from the top 15 green companies in the U.S. that surprised me a bit.

Not only is IBM #1 among U.S. companies, but it also holds the #2 spot on the entire list and is the only U.S. company in the top 10. Apparently IBM has been working towards greener goals since 1971, and some of its environmental practices have been so cutting edge that they were put into practice before even the EPA caught on to their importance.

Johnson & Johnson
Most of us know this company (which holds the #6 U.S. spot) for baby shampoo, but they’re also extremely proactive in the realm of alternative energy. They’ve reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent in the past decade and are one of the nation’s biggest consumers of solar power. The EPA even named them the seventh largest producer of renewable energy in the U.S.

This well-known company holds the #14 U.S. slot for taking a variety of steps towards sustainability over the last few years, including reducing its electricity usage by 35 percent and its natural gas usage by 41 percent.

Take a look at the rest of the nation’s top 15 greenest companies here.

You can also see the listings of the least green companies in the U.S. so you know which ones to avoid.


October 25th, 2011|Tags: |1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Adam L. Gruen October 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    As a former Director of Sustainability for a global corporation with 17000+ employees — BearingPoint — I can tell you that we had a goal of carbon neutrality by the year 2012. We achieved that goal three years ahead of schedule, the company went bankrupt and dissolved in 2009.

    My point is that in the business of corporate sustainability, there are subtleties that often have to be recognized and addressed. You can measure absolute reductions if you wish, but then beware of the company that is shrinking because it is losing market share. Its carbon footprint is automagically shrinking because it is doing less. It can claim substantial reductions from a baseline and not actually do a darn thing. So, traditionally, a better metric is pollution per capita.

    That is to say, how much pollution does a corporation produce, relative to the number of employees it employs? But again that has a subtlety that tends to skew the results. For starters, it would be possible for a corporation to externalize significant pollution metrics by maintaining a small number of employees managing a large number of vendors. So then you have to go chase after the vendors to find out what *their* metrics are. This is a version of supply chain analysis. When you look at IBM, you can’t look only at IBM, you have to look at the entire IBM supply chain. Make a pot of coffee, it’s going to take a while.

    If you judge firms by pollution per capita metrics, it also tends to skew the results in favor of companies that are payroll heavy. Take the example of a law firm involved in import-export trade, there you might have an ungodly pollution per capita number because you have 10 people flying constantly around the globe.

    One of my arguments was that the business world needed a better metric to avoid employee number bias. I thought revenue per pollution unit was the way to go; that way you could measure companies in substantially different kinds of businesses against each other to see what was an efficient business producing goods or services. Revenue (sales) is also harder to fudge, by the way.

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