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Andrew Burger headshot

Newsweek Ranks Environmental Performance of Top 500 Corporations

By Andrew Burger

Ranking the environmental performance of the 500 largest U.S. and global corporations by market capitalization, on June 4th Newsweek on released the 2015 Newsweek Green Rankings. Based on research from Toronto's Corporate Knights Capital and HIP (Human Impact+Profit) Investor, Newsweek uses a weighted average of eight key factors – including energy, emissions and water productivity – to produce its annual ranking of corporate environmental performance.

Following are the top 10 corporations in the 2015 Newsweek Green Rankings for the U.S.:

  1. Biogen

  2. Allergan

  3. Adobe Systems

  4. Broadcom

  5. Sigma-Aldrich

  6. The Hershey Co.

  7. Ecolab

  8. Coca-Cola Enterprises

  9. Aflac

  10. Mead Johnson Nutrition

Providing more comprehensive, high-quality information on the environmental and social impacts of the world's largest corporations to investors is another guiding aim for Newsweek in producing its annual green rankings. “Investors all have the power to demand more information on the companies they invest in,” the organization states.

How “green” are the world's largest corporations?

The principal aim of Newsweek's annual corporate environmental impact assessments is “to describe environmental performance of each company’s operations, while also incorporating the impact of a company’s products and services on ecology and society,” the news and information services provider explains. “That’s why, for example, tobacco products are rated so low; they’d rank much higher if environmental impact was the sole consideration because their products are a leading contributor to causing cancer and spur high costs of healthcare.”

Numerous factors complicate making an "apples to apples" comparison of corporations' environmental performance. Corporate Knights Capital assembled an advisory panel of prominent environmental and sustainability experts to oversee the research and metrics that went into producing Newsweek's 2015 Green Rankings. Among advisory panel members were William McDonogh; L. Hunter Lovins; Kathleen Rogers, president of The Earth Day Network; and Michael Meehan, CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

In addition to energy, emissions and water productivity, waste productivity, “green” revenue, “green” pay, board oversight and evaluation mechanisms and audited environmental metrics factor into Newsweek's assessment of corporate environmental performance. Newsweek describes the research and methodology in full on its website.

As defined by Newsweek, “green” revenue is revenue derived from products and services that contribute to environmental sustainability and societal health. “Green” pay are mechanisms linking the pay of senior executives to corporate environmental performance.

"We know that large companies are starting to become more aware of their environmental footprints — for example, in developing this year's Green Rankings, we found that more and more firms are now linking executive pay to sustainability targets," Newsweek Senior Editor Elijah Wolfson was quoted in a press release. "The hope is that continuing to grade companies annually on these metrics as part of Newsweek's Green Rankings project will help hold them accountable for their impact on the environment moving forward."

Biogen topped both Newsweek's U.S. and global 2015 green rankings. Another biotech/pharmaceutical company, Allergan earned a second-place ranking in the U.S. ranking and ranked third globally. U.K.-based pharmaceutical company SHIRE PLC placed second in the global ranking.

“This helps to reduce risk (by knowing what you own) and better evaluate whether and how much to invest – and whether you want to be a customer of that company. We encourage investors to use the Green Rankings to evaluate how to invest, what to buy and where to shop. Greener choices can build a better world.”

*Image credits: Newsweek

Andrew Burger headshot

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

Read more stories by Andrew Burger