SABMiller, Sainsbury's honored for sustainability leadership

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SABMiller, Sainsbury's honored for sustainability leadership

Worldwide brewer and Coca-Cola bottler SABMiller dramatically reduced its water consumption, while UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's created the world's first smart-grid ready supermarket and worked with over 2,600 farmers to cut their carbon emissions.

These are just two of several businesses recognized recently in the UK at the second annual Guardian Sustainable Business Awards (GBSA) and in a new US study ranking the top American firms with strong environmental governance, policies and infrastructure.

Both underscore a rising trend of honoring concrete environmental results based on sustainability metrics rather than praising firms by the merits of blue-sky promises alone.

“Our judges are looking for projects that are more than plans,” the Guardian wrote about the awards on its website. “They need to have made an impact.”

The GEMS rating “allows us to evaluate a broad and diverse array of companies in a way that is meaningful, consistent, and transparent,” said Peter Soyka, the study’s author.

Soyka said that he believes his company's method provides important insights as to which American firms are environmental leaders and which are not, based upon appropriate governance practices, policy elements, goals, systems and other infrastructure -- in addition to performance results and transparency.

While the Guardian awards honored winners in 15 different categories, the study titled “Benchmarking Analysis of Disclosed U.S. Corporate Environmental Practices" by Soyka determined its rankings based on 50 different indicators in the Governance and Environmental Management Strength (GEMS) ratings system. GEMS was developed by Soyka and Company in collaboration with IW Financial.

Photo of party balloons by snake3d via Shutterstock.

Among the companies singled out by the Guardian and the Soyka study:

  • U.S. home appliance-maker Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR), which moved from a 28th place tie in the GEMS rankings two years ago to second place this year for demonstrating strong improvements in environmental management practices.
  • European carpet and sports surfaces manufacturer Desso in the Guardian's waste and recycling category for creating products that are completely biodegradable, as well as products that can be recycled to provide new materials.
  • SABMiller, (LSE: SAB) one of the world’s largest beer brewers and bottlers of Coca-Cola products, for dramatically reducing its overall water consumption.
  • Some firms that did not score any points in the last GEMS rankings are now reporting "meaningful" environmental information, according to Soyka. Those companies include Regions Financial (NYSE: RF), Diebold (NYSE: DBD), Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM), Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ: AKAM), and Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF).
  • Sainsbury’s Supermarkets (LSE:SBRY) won both the energy category in the Guardian awards for the world’s first smart grid-ready supermarket, and in the carbon category for its Carbon Footprint Initiative which worked with over 2,600 farmers to cut costs and their overall carbon emissions.

The Guardian's 2012 overall winner as well as the winner in its biodiversity category was Puma. The German sport and lifestyle company got top honors for its environmental profit and loss account (EP&L).

First published in late 2011, the EP&L was honored by the Guardian judges as a "truly pioneering attempt to put a cost on the impact a business has on the environment across its entire supply chain -- providing lessons for the corporate world at large," the publication wrote on its website.

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