The Greenest Big Companies

23 Sep 2009|Kelli Peterson

This week Newsweek’s cover story promotes an exclusive ranking of “The Greenest Big Companies in America”. This is an important moment in time. In 2006, Vanity Fair was among a few high profile publications that devoted entire issues to the green movement and their distribution was reported to have been the lowest of the year. Fast forward three years and Newsweek’s list marks an important moment in time. Joining the other high profile annually released classifications such as the Top 100 Companies to Work For (Fortune), the Top 100 Global Brands (BusinessWeek) and The Largest 500 Companies (Fortune), the (presumably) annual ranking represents a palpable and permanent shift in business ethics and operations. Transparency is a leading value of those engaged in the green movement but it is still interesting to read that 70% of the companies participating voluntarily provided the data necessary to compile the list (otherwise utilizing publicly available information).

As self-reported, the release of the rankings is sure to provoke welcome debate. Measurement and metrics is the hallmark of an industry trying to develop and defend its value. It is part of credibility building and it helps to filter out those whose efforts are deemed dubious and actually detrimental to the authenticity of the opportunity. To this point, it’s interesting and promising to see four companies actively involved in the sustainability debate lead the Top 10 (HP #1, Intel#4, Nike #7 and Starbucks #10). And even more interesting to see other very public spokesmen for green business practices fall very low in the list (WalMart #59, Yahoo #69, eBay #76). Because this is an American focused list, companies such as BP, Toyota and IKEA were not on it but perhaps response will fuel vetting for a globally inclusive list.

The exciting news is that this ranking will provoke public debate over the reliability and objectivity of the data, weighting formulas, evolution vs. complacency of the standards suggested and it will establish a benchmark for future measurement and discussion.

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