100 most sustainable multibillion-dollar companies revealed in Davos

100 most sustainable multibillion-dollar companies revealed in Davos

U.S. biotech firm Biogen Idec and pharmaceutical giant Allergan were deemed the world’s top two most sustainable corporations this week by Corporate Knights, a Canadian media and research firm focused on clean capitalism.

Corporate Knights' annual “Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations Index” cited Biogen, which makes medicine for treating hemophilia, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis, and Allergan, known for producing Botox, after gauging the performance of 4,609 large companies on a mix of 12 criteria.

Variables considered include revenue generated per unit of energy consumed, water conservation efforts, work time lost to injury and the ratio of CEO pay to that of a company's average worker. 

The report was released in Davos, Switzerland, where the world’s business leaders and many government heads are gathered this week to strategize on the world's most daunting challenges.

Just as the Corporate Knights report takes a broad view of sustainability — including environmental conservation metrics along with labor and economic inequality issues — leaders gathered in Davos last week cited a range of interrelated sustainability challenges (water scarcity climate change, extreme weather) among the top global risk factors in a survey conducted by meeting convener the World Economic Forum.

"The Global 100 represent the corporate trailblazers who are forging new ways to make more with less, while raising the bar on good governance and social responsibility," Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights, said in a statement with release of the Index.

Adidas, the German sports equipment and apparel company, ranked as the third most sustainable company, followed by the Keppel Land real estate development firm in Singapore and Kesko from Finland.

Rounding out the top 10 were German automaker BMW; then two British companies, Reckitt Benckiser Group and Centrica; followed by the French Schneider Electric and Denmark’s Danske Bank.

Companies judged in the analysis were all large, with at least $2 billion in market capitalization. None received a perfect score, with some such as Biogen ranking highly on energy and water conservation but low on diversity in management. On the flip side, others were buoyed by high scores for management and employee diversity, as well as engagement. 

In addition to energy consumption, water use and greenhouse gas emissions also were criteria — measured in ratios against revenue generated — for the index. Another was executive delivery on sustainability goals. Heaps said an encouraging 85 percent of the Global 100 provided a financial bonus to executives who achieved sustainability targets. Philips Electronics, 25th, and Schneider Electric, ranked ninth, link their executives' bonuses to reducing carbon emissions.

Firms were judged within the context of their industries, meaning that sector-specific challenges, such as worker injuries on the job for manufacturers, were weighted more heavily where applicable.

Twenty companies on the list are headquartered in the United States, with Johnson & Johnson named at No. 18 and Coca Cola at No. 26. France and Canada each had 12 companies on the Global 100 list and the United Kingdom had 11.