Let’s face it: People love ranked lists. From the best restaurants in the world to the most iconic albums of all time, they’re informative and totally addictive to read–but there’s never just one list out there. Each ranking system chooses different candidates and uses its own methodology to rank them. This applies to lists of companies that are environmentally friendly, too.

And as Sustainable Brands and Rubicon call for nominations for our list of Waste Fit Champions, we thought it was time to pull together some of the top environmentally sustainable companies leading the green charge.

The Newsweek Green Rankings

Newsweek’s Green Rankings evaluates the largest publicly traded companies every year. Their Green Ranking 2017 was released in December 2017 and includes a breakdown of the U.S. Top 10, the Global Top 10, the U.S. 500, the Global 500, the Best in Industry U.S., and the Best in Industry Global.

The Newsweek Green Rankings are comprehensive and make it simple to quickly examine which large U.S. and global companies are taking sustainability seriously. Being able to search by industry is a nice touch, too.  

Here’s a snapshot of the top green companies according to Newsweek’s Green Rankings.

U.S. Top 10

  1. Cisco Systems Inc
  2. Ecolab Inc
  3. Hasbro Inc
  4. PG&E Corp
  5. Sealed Air Corp
  6. Best Buy Co Inc
  7. Celgene Corp
  8. Apple Inc
  9. CMS Energy Corp
  10. Johnson & Johnson

Global Top 10

  1. L’Oreal SA (France)
  2. Centrica PLC (United Kingdom)
  3. Enbridge Inc (Canada)
  4. Siemens AG (Germany)
  5. Cisco Systems Inc (United States of America)
  6. Henkel AG & Co KgaA (Germany)
  7. Accenture PLC (Republic of Ireland)
  8. BT Group PLC (United Kingdom)
  9. Adidas AG (Germany)
  10. Koninklijke Philips NV (Netherlands)

To see the U.S. 500, the Global 500, and to sort by industry, visit the Green Rankings site.

The Newsweek Green Rankings methodology

When you’re clicking through the Newsweek Green Rankings lists, you’ll see Newsweek Green Score percentages next to each listing. Curious about how this list assigned these scores? Here’s a rundown of the methodology.

The rankings only evaluate the largest U.S. and global publicly traded companies and use the prior year’s revenue data.

The KPIs include:

  • Combined Energy Productivity Score: This factors in revenue, total energy consumption, and renewable energy consumption.
  • Combined GHG Productivity Score: This factors in revenue and total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Combined Water Productivity Score: This factors in revenue and total water use.
  • Combined Waste Productivity Score: This factors in revenue, total waste generated, and total waste recycled, reused, and/or composted.
  • Green Revenue Percent Range: This factors in if a company sees green revenue potential.
  • Sustainability Pay Link: This factors in if a company rewards senior employees for meeting environmental performance targets.
  • Audited Environmental Metric: This factors in whether a company has undergone an environmental metric audit or not.
  • Monetary Fines: This factors in whether a company has paid or has payable fines, penalties, or settlements.
  • Product/Services: This factors in if a company gets a majority of revenue from industries like coal, tobacco, and weapons; if so, it receives a deduction.

Take a look at Newsweek’s break down of their methodology for a more complete analysis.

The Corporate Knights 2018 “Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World”

Corporate Knights is a Canadian media and research company. They release their Global 100 list of the most sustainable corporations every January at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This list only covers public companies with a gross revenue of $1 billion or more.

While Corporate Knights put out their own top green companies list, they also contribute research and other information to Newsweek’s Green Rankings as well. Still, the Corporate Knights list includes different companies than the Newsweek list.

Here are the top 20 most sustainable companies from the Corporate Knights’ most recent list.

The Corporate Knights Top 20:

  1. Dassault Systemes (France)
  2. Neste (Finland)
  3. Valeo (France)
  4. Ucb (Belgium
  5. Outotec (Finland)
  6. Amundi (France)
  7. Cisco Systems (United States of America)
  8. Autodesk (United States of America)
  9. Siemens (Germany)
  10. Samsung SDI (South Korea)
  11. Aareal Bank (Germany)
  12. Enbridge (Canada)
  13. Merck (United States of America)
  14. Natura Cosmeticos (Brazil)
  15. Pearson (United Kingdom)
  16. Amadeus IT Group (Spain)
  17. Bayerische Motoren Werke (Germany)
  18. Companhia Energetica de Minas Gerais CEMIG (Brazil)
  19. Koninklijke Philips (Netherlands)
  20. Allergan (United States of America)

Explore the full list of all 100 corporations.

The Corporate Knights 2018 Global 100 methodology

While there are some familiar companies on both the Newsweek and Corporate Knights lists (looking at you, Cisco!), they aren’t identical. This is due to their unique methodologies and ranking factors.

The Corporate Knights methodology includes the following KPIs:

Resource management KPIs:

  • Energy Intensity: This factors in revenue, energy use, and renewable energy use.
  • Carbon Intensity: This factors in revenue and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Water Intensity: This factors in revenue and water use.
  • Waste Intensity: This factors in revenue and non-recycled or reused waste.
  • Clean Air Productivity Score: This factors in revenue and other emissions.

Financial management KPIs:

  • Innovation Capacity: This factors in R&D expenses and revenue.
  • Percentage Tax Paid: This factors in the amount of taxes paid in cash and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
  • CEO-Average Employee Pay: This factors in the CEO’s compensation and the average employee compensation.
  • Pension Fund Status: This factors in employer contributions, plan assets, and more.
  • Supplier Score: This factors in the company’s largest supplier and scores the supplier with a similar methodology.

Employee management KPIs:

  • Safety Performance: This factors in any fatalities or lost time incidents.
  • Employee Turnover: This factors in the number of employees who left the company and the total number of employees.
  • Leadership Diversity: This factors in the number of women in senior leadership positions.
  • Sustainability Pay Link: This factors in any processes that reward senior managers for achieving sustainability goals.

Other KPI:

  • Clean Revenue: This factors in the total revenue a company earns from “clean” products and services, as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic and similar institutions.

According to the Corporate Knights methodology, not every company is ranked according to every single one of the above KPIs. Instead, each company is scored on priority KPIs for their respective industry and the following five universal KPIs:

  • Leadership Diversity
  • Sustainability Pay Link
  • Pension Fund Status
  • Percentage Tax Paid
  • Clean Revenue

While the Newsweek Green Rankings focus more specifically on sustainability efforts, the Corporate Knights system involves more KPIs on corporations’ financial structure and employee relations.

Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies

Barron’s is known for its coverage of the finance world–but they also put out their very first list of the 100 Most Sustainable Companies in February 2018.

According to Barron’s, they’ve “always aimed to provide information on what keenly interests investors–and what affects investment risk and performance.” Since sustainability is becoming ever more important to shareholders and consumers alike, Barron’s decided to compile their own list of the top green companies.

Barron’s partnered with Calvert Research and Management and reviewed the 1,000 largest public companies based in the U.S.

The top 20 are below.

The Barron’s Top 20:

  1. Cisco Systems
  2. Salesforce
  3. Best Buy
  4. Intuit
  5. HP Inc.
  6. Texas Instruments
  7. Microsoft
  8. Oshkosh
  9. Clorox
  10. Xylem
  11. Adobe Systems
  12. ManpowerGroup
  13. Motorola Solutions
  14. Williams-Sonoma
  15. Darden Restaurants
  16. Cognizant Technology Solutions
  17. Agilent Technologies
  18. Colgate-Palmolive
  19. Flowserve
  20. Applied Materials

See the full list of Barron’s Top 100 here.

Barron’s Most Sustainable Companies methodology

As mentioned above, Barron’s only evaluated companies that are publicly held and have headquarters in the United States.

The methodology included over 300 KPIs which was distilled into 28 unique issues. These issues were sorted into 5 KPI categories.

  • Shareholders
    • Board Structure
    • Business Ethics
    • Accounting Policies
    • Executive Compensation
    • Stakeholder Relations
  • Employees
    • Labor Relations
    • Workplace Diversity
    • Workplace Safety
  • Customers
    • Data Security
    • Product Safety
    • Product Marketing
    • Product Quality
  • Planet
    • Environmental Policies, Reporting & Systems
    • Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Related Policies
    • Energy Use, Energy Efficiency, and Renewable Energy
    • Waste Management & Recycling
    • Reduction & Elimination of Toxic Emissions and Hazardous Waste
    • Product Environmental Impact and Lifecycle
    • Environmental Supply Chain Impacts
    • Biodiversity and Ecosystem Impacts
    • Water Use
    • Resource Efficiency
  • Community
    • Human Rights and Supply Chain
    • Community Engagement
    • Animal Welfare
    • Food Sourcing
    • Access to Medicines
    • Indigenous Peoples Rights

Like Corporate Knights, Barron’s methodology incorporates KPIs on shareholders, leadership, and employees. These are complemented with the more straightforward, environmentally focused KPIs in the planet and community categories.

You can read more on how Calvert Research and Management ascertained the Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies.

What’s Cisco doing right?

You may have noticed that Cisco Systems, Inc. showed up at or near the top of each of the three lists above. Based in San Jose, California, Cisco manufactures telecommunications and networking products and services. Cisco has over 70,000 employees and reported $48 billion in revenue in 2017.

You may have interacted with Cisco’s equipment in your office–but you’ve probably never thought of it as a top green company.

Cisco has dedicated itself to a comprehensive CSR plan (Corporate Social Responsibility) with a specific focus on the environment. Here are some of the reasons they’ve been named to the top of several sustainability lists.

  • They aim to eliminate 1 million tons of greenhouse gases from their supply chain by the year 2020.
  • They aim to achieve a system energy efficiency goal of 92% for all of their products by the year 2020.
  • They’ve reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 41% over the last decade.
  • 80% of the electricity used came from renewable sources in 2017. They aim to reach 85% by 2022.
  • They’ve reused, refurbished, or recycled 11,400 metric tons of products.
  • The Cisco Refresh (Certified Remanufactured) program refurbishes products for consumers, which saves energy and money.
  • Their products help people work remotely, which reduces greenhouse gases from commuting.
  • They’ve partnered with Dimension Data to track poachers and stop rhino poaching through the use of sensors, drone cameras, thermal imaging, and other technologies. This has led to a 96% decrease in rhino poaching at a South African game reserve.
  • They’re committed to a circular economy strategy. Cisco products are manufactured with the intention to be reused, refurbished, and ultimately recycled. This eliminates mindless waste and disposable products.

Cisco has also been named on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, the CDP Climate A list, and the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index.

In addition to the achievements and goals outlined above, Cisco sets high expectations for its employees and suppliers. Their policies include:

  • Encouraging all suppliers to be more environmentally responsible through their Supplier Code of Conduct
  • Requiring all employees to complete a Code of Business Conduct certification annually
  • Providing comprehensive and transparent reporting on their progress to shareholders, employees, and the public

Their CSR report from 2017 includes more details on the information above, as well as specific acknowledgments of what they’d like to improve upon. For example, Cisco notes wasteful packaging for their products being sent to landfills as an area to improve moving forward.

Cisco’s clear sustainability goals and comprehensive CSR reports support the company’s overall commitment to the environment.

But what about small businesses?

Newsweek, Corporate Knights, and Barron’s all ranked large companies with thousands of employees and billions in revenue. While it’s great to see corporate giants seriously investing in sustainability, that doesn’t mean there are so many small and local eco-friendly businesses to admire.

We’ve featured sustainable breweries, fashion brands, and other small businesses in past posts. Check out the following to learn more about them:

Interested in how your company can take steps to become greener?

Download our Waste Stream Management Guide for a practical guide to reducing commercial waste streams!

Is someone at your organization, within your network or even yourself championing the efforts to reduce waste, implement recycling programs or kick-off sustainable material management programs that return revenue? Then submit them as a 2018 Waste Fit Champion!

Editors Note: Rubicon is not affiliated with the companies referenced in the blog post, and any references to companies in the post are not meant to convey an endorsement of Rubicon by those companies in any way.