DAVOS—Reason for celebration during the World Economic Forum for the Belgian clean-tech and recycling company Umicore, as they have been ranked as the world’s most sustainable company in the Global 100. Umicore CEO Marc Grynberg: “This recognition shows that we are on the right track.”
Since 2005, Canadian media and investment research company Corporate Knights has been putting together the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World index. This list, published during the annual high-mass of corporate capitalism in Davos, includes companies from 22 countries, with a total sales number of over $3 trillion, and employing 5 million people. Compared to previous editions, the share of European companies continues to increase, to a total of 56 this year. This figures reflect the efforts made in this field by the EU and countries like Norway and Switzerland.
Corporate Knights uses the results of its Global 100 index to explore sustainable investment strategies. Behind these results lies a two-step methodology. Over 4,000 companies worth more than $2 billion are first sifted down to a shortlist of 400, based on their general sustainability performance and financial health. In a second step, these are further graded along 12 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), including energy and water productivity, innovation capacity, CEO-to-employee pay ratio, percentage tax paid and leadership diversity.
This Global 100 clearly goes beyond purely environmental concerns, though not everybody is so positive about the exercise. According to Raz Godelnik, co-founder of Eco-Libris, the main issue with the index is that it does not give any objective bench-mark. Godelnik: “It is like providing you with the results of a 100-meter race without telling you what the 100-meter world record is—how can you tell whether the runners did well or not?” So in fact, it does not tell us much about the current state of sustainability in global business.
The fact, however, that two-thirds of companies on this year’s list also featured in the ranking of 2012, shows that the companies are committed to continue their sustainability efforts. Umicore, last year’s #8, precedes Brazilian beauty products manufacturer Natura Cosmeticos and Norwegian energy company Statoil, also the numbers 2 and 3 in 2012. In the words of CEO Grynberg: “Being recognised as the most sustainable company is foremost an encouragement to continue to grow our business in a sustainable way.”
So we hope that these 100 companies –more than half of them based in Europe– will continue to be “models for the art of the possible”, and show the way toward ever-more sustainable business practice. Of course, the entire Global 100 list only accounts for about 4.5% of global GDP. But it also has its value for the other 95.5%, especially in the development of the KPIs, and the possibility of measuring a company’s or organisation’s performance against them. Meanwhile, we congratulate Umicore’s management team and employees with their achievement, and wish them a successful year ahead!