Top 100 Green Companies: How do They Make the Grade?

by mbryce2012 on May 15, 2013

What is it that separates green companies from the rest of the pack?  Contrary to what you may believe, the top ranked green companies in the world are as diverse as the ecosystems and the people they help sustain.

By definition, what all green companies have in common is their commitment to sustainability.  However, qualifying and quantifying that commitment in order to give credit where it’s due has proven a difficult process.  In fact, the credentials are so difficult to measure that even “Fortune” magazine abandoned its efforts to create a top green company list.


In comes the knight in recycled shining armor.  Corporate Knights, a Canadian publication dedicated to clean capitalism, has done just what Fortune and others have not been able to accomplish.  For the past eight years, in fact, Corporate Knights has put an enormous effort into the publication of its annual “Global 100 List.”

Based on a very strict set of criteria, this top 100 global green companies list is exclusive to the big players:  It only includes companies that have a market capitalization over $US 2 billion.  We’re not talking about the local health food store or organic bakery.  While small local shops are integral to greening our economy, this list is comprised of the huge driving forces of international commerce that have made a clear commitment to ecological and socio-economical sustainability.


There are some common names that you might recognize sitting there in the top twenty:  Intel Corp, Adidas, and Cisco Systems, just to name a few.  Further down the list you’ll find Nestle, Motorola, Campbell’s Soup and even Clorox!  So, why did these companies make the list?

The system is incredibly detailed, but here’s my basic understanding of the selection procedure from start to finish.

  1. The companies go through a screening process to ensure that company policies are disclosed and that the business is sound and profitable.
  2. Companies are screened out whose major product is tobacco, firearm, or defense related.
  3. Any company that lands in the bottom quartile performance for amount of settlements paid out for environmental accidents, pollution, human-rights infringements, child labor issues, or violation of collective bargaining rights is eliminated.
  4. Now the real selection process begins.  Companies that make it through the screening are then set up against a rigorous set of criteria and ranked according to the data collected.  The list of criteria is extensive, and reaches from manufacturing methods to how salaries are linked to implementation of eco-friendly practices.  Here’s the criteria list, in short:  Energy Productivity, Carbon Productivity, Walter Productivity, Innovation Capacity, Percentage Tax Paid, CEO to Average Employee Pay, Pension Fund Status, Safety Performance, Employee Turnover, Leadership Diverstiy, Clean Capitalism Pay Link.

For a description of each of the screening and selection criteria, check out the Methodology tab on the Corporate Knights web site.


After perusing the 2013 Global 100 List, I came away with a lot more questions than answers.  Like, why did Clorox make the list?  I’ve always thought bleach was bad.  There were some oil companies on the list, too.  Bottom line is that to be a truly informed consumer, you need to use this list as a jumping point.  Because the companies on this list publicly disclose their information (it’s one of the screening criteria), you should be able to do a quick search and find the information you need to make socially and ecologically conscious choices when you are playing your part in the global economy.

Remember, change starts with the consumer.  Every purchase has power… and knowledge is the key to making better choices.



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