Four years ago, it seemed every politician was hot and bothered about climate change—whether they believed it was real or not. But in 2012, with the economy stuck in second gear, the only green thing the candidates want to talk about is the stuff missing from people’s pockets.
The good news for fans of the planet is that big business has taken up the torch. Just look at Walmart, the biggest company in the world. It’s reducing waste, buying renewable energy, and using its marketing clout to pressure suppliers to be more environmentally conscious, resulting in greener products on store shelves that cost the same, or even less, than their earth-polluting competition.
Companies in every industry are realizing that the pursuit of profit is intertwined with environmental and social issues. They call it the “triple bottom line”: people, planet, and profit. Operational efficiency saves money, and preparing for a future of limited resources and high energy prices is a must for any company’s long-term survival. “It really comes down to dollars and cents,” says Sprint CEO Dan Hesse.
For Newsweek’s fourth annual Green Rankings, we’ve examined the environmental performance of the 500 biggest public companies in America and the 500 biggest in the world. The result is a comprehensive, objective picture of which companies are leading—and which are lagging. We crunched the data in cooperation with two leading environmental-research firms, Trucost and Sustainalytics, assessing companies’ performance in three arenas: environmental footprint, management, and disclosure.
Comparing our two lists, it’s clear that the U.S. is falling behind globally. IBM, which ranks No. 1 on our U.S. list, was the only American company to break into the global top 10, which was led by Banco Santander Brasil.
“Business has never had a bigger role to play in protecting the planet,” says Gwen Ruta, who directs the Environmental Defense Fund’s corporate partnerships program. “We’ve got big challenges to solve, and we need the ingenuity of the private sector to help us solve them.”
What follows are our rankings of the companies doing just that.
How we calculated this year’s Green Rankings.
Frequently asked questions about our fourth annual environmental ranking.
As part of a continued effort to improve our transparency, we are providing a deeper dive into scoring.
Back in June, Newsweek and its research partners presented an online workshop about the methodology behind Green Rankings. Re-watch it here.
How green is a smartphone? Andrew Blum looked into the iPhone—and it turns out the news is good.
An in-depth look at each of the 20 industry sectors.
Companies ignore the magnitude of their supply-chain environmental impacts—and the environmental and financial risks and opportunities that they represent—at their own peril, writes James Salo.
Changes in ranking methodology have led to a shakeup in the results, and have brought welcome transparency and empiricism to a complicated analysis. John Elkington reports.
Many firms that rank high on environmental lists also lobby for non-green policies, say Aaron Chatterji and Michael Toffel.
Even companies with broad and aggressive environmental commitments are neglecting a core component of sustainability: worker health and safety. Heather Lang reports.
The move toward sustainability is upending the old ways of doing business. These days, less really is more, says David J. Vidal.
Several notable companies moved up or down in the rankings since 2011.
We are offering a new rating option for companies not eligible for our U.S. and Global 500 lists.