ACCORDING TO PricewaterhouseCoopers, more and more investors are using corporate sustainability reporting to guide their investments. Companies across all sectors are responding, overhauling their manufacturing processes, increasing transparency and reporting on sustainability practices. Greenwashing is still a factor, at times making it difficult to tell which companies are truly walking the walk. And to some extent, the changes are pragmatic; after all, operating more efficiently—finding ways to stretch energy and water, and turning waste into resource, for example—translates into higher profit margins. But we believe some of these companies are not just responding to today’s daunting environmental challenges out of concern for their bottom lines or their investors, but out of a deep sense of responsibility.
Corporate Knights uses a set of 12 metrics to evaluate companies and publishes an annual list of the top 100 sustainable companies around the globe. We asked some similar questions when choosing this year’s Eco-Leaders:
- What does the company make? Do its products improve lives for a wide range of people? Do they contribute to energy efficiency by helping our buildings, vehicles and factories run more efficiently?
- What is the impact of extracting raw materials? Do the company’s products depend on non-renewable resources, contain toxic substances or create toxic waste in the manufacturing process?
- What sources of energy are used in the manufacturing process? What is the impact on freshwater resources? How is waste handled?
- What happens to the product at the end of its life? Is the company making products that are inherently more recyclable?
- Is the company dedicated to transparency?
- Has the company built a sustainable supply chain?
- How does the company treat its employees?
- How is the company giving back, especially in the communities in which it operates?
Some of our Eco-Leaders make products exclusive to the construction industry; others are global companies with enormous reach. They are taking climate change seriously, acknowledging their impact with formalized sustainability strategies, which include tangible goals for reducing carbon emissions, energy and water use and waste. Some have revamped their R&D departments to focus on products that reduce energy use or support renewable energy, or that help our vehicles, buildings and factories run better on less. Another trend we noticed is collaboration; increasingly, companies are teaming up with governments, NGOs, other companies, academic institutions and communities to find local solutions—a welcome reversal from 20th-century hubris.
Each of our Eco-Leaders is confronting the challenges in different way ways—some focusing more heavily on one aspect of sustainability, such as water conservation, others taking a more comprehensive approach. They have this in common: they are leaders in their sectors, combining vision from the top with many willing players at all levels. We hope that celebrating their accomplishments will inspire others to follow their example.