Newsweek's 2012 Green Rankings: This time it's serious

The latest Green Rankings from Newsweek are out today, and while there aren’t any show-stopping changes from last year, at least at the top of the list, this year’s rankings represent the first meaningful, apples-to-apples comparison of company performance in the rankings’ four-year history.

For the uninitiated: Each year, the magazine, in partnership with Trucost and Sustainalytics, assesses the 500 largest U.S. and global companies and assigns each a “Green Score,” derived from three components:

  • an Environmental Impact Score (45% of the total) compiled by Trucost, involving more than 700 metrics — a comprehensive, quantitative, and standardized measurement of the overall environmental impact of a company’s global operations;
  • an Environmental Management Score (45%) compiled by Sustainalytics, an assessment of how a company manages its environmental footprint, including its environmental policies, programs, targets and initiatives of both its own operations and its suppliers and contractors, as well as the impact of its products and services; and
  • an Environmental Disclosure Score (10%), evaluating the quality of company sustainability reporting and involvement in key transparency initiatives such as the Global Reporting Initiative and Carbon Disclosure Project.

The top 10 rankings on the U.S. list include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sprint Nextel, Dell, CA Technologies, Nvidia, Intel, Accenture, Office Depot, and Staples. The top 10 companies on the global list include Santander (Brazil), Wipro (India), Bradesco (Brazil), IBM (U.S.), National Australia Bank (Australia), BT Group (U.K.), Munich Re (Germany), SAP (Germany), KPN (Netherlands), and Marks & Spencer (U.K.).

The full listings can be found here. You can find my colleague Kristine Wong’s story about the rankings here.

Last year, Newsweek changed the methodology for its rankings, which are probably the most-watched comparison of mainstream company sustainability performance, both in the U.S., Newsweek’s home turf, and around the world. The 2011 rankings, were a reboot of the methodology used in the first two years of the project. Starting last year, each company’s scores were stated as an absolute number rather than a relative one. Previously, the top-ranked company received a score of 100, with everyone else assessed on a relative basis. Last year’s change assigned asbolute numbers, making year-to-year comparisons easier.

Newsweek publishes two sets of rankings: the 500 largest publicly traded U.S. companies, and the 500 largest publicly traded global companies. One hundred sixty-two companies appear on both lists, meaning that all told there are 838 different companies ranked between the two.

Next page: Small swings, and small progress