This year's Climate Counts ranking is out and Unilever once again leads as the company doing the most to address climate change.
In fact, its score of 91 points out of a possible 100 is the highest score Climate Counts has given a company since it began the ranking in 2007.
Last year, Unilever scored 88 points.
Other top ranked corporations are: United Parcel Service (UPS) and Nike with 89 points; Levi Strauss, L'Oreal and AB Electrolux (87 points); and IBM and Bank of America (86 points).
The average score for all companies is 52.1.
Climate Counts ranks the world's largest 145 companies (by revenue) on their response to climate change, rather than the size of their carbon footprint.
Climate Counts uses 22 criteria to rank companies including: efforts to assess the climate footprint; actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achievement of targets; advocacy on climate legislation; and how clearly and comprehensively companies communicate their efforts.
Despite the lack of progress by the world's governments, the scores show that corporations are moving ahead. This year, 66% of the companies rated publish climate and energy strategies, compared with just 25% in 2007.
Indeed, five of the top six companies on the list managed to reduce emissions even while their sales increased.
“When the financial crisis hit, it was as if the climate discussion fell into a coma,” says Mike Bellamente, director of Climate Counts. “Now we’re seeing major consumer brands calling climate change by name and meeting aggressive targets to slash emissions—all while turning a profit and growing their business. It’s still dismally quiet on Capitol Hill, but it is promising to see signs of leadership emerging from the private sector.”
UK-based Unilever's high rank is linked largely to its Sustainable Living Plan. Its goal is reduce the environmental footprint of its products 50% and source 100% of agricultural materials from sustainable sources by 2020.
Unilever calls the plan an "innovative decoupling of financial and environmental performance that aims to halve the company's environmental impact while doubling its business."
The company, which pulls in about $60 billion a year in revenue, owns more than 400 consumer brands, such as Dove, Lipton, Vaseline and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.
"Never before has it been so important for business to step up its leadership to address both the causes and the impacts of climate change," says Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. "Ordinary people are increasingly suffering the effects of extreme weather events and the associated food and water shortages. They are expecting us to be responsible in helping them to manage these challenges. Each of us - government, business and civil society - know what we need to do. It is time to take concerted action. We welcome this acknowledgement by Climate Counts, we still have more to do and we encourage all of our stakeholders to accelerate their commitments to responsible growth since moving in concert is what is needed."
Unilever is part of a consortium of over 400 companies that agreed to stop using HFCs (climate forcers) beginning in 2015 (wish they'd hurry up) and it cancelled contracts with companies that sell palm oil as well as investing in Solazyme (Nasdaq: SZYM) to access its algae-based oils and bio-materials.
Apple remains at the bottom of the 15 companies in the technology sector with a mediocre score of 62.
The fast food industry is among the worst performers. Wendy's and Burger King, for example, had abysmal scores in the single digits.
And Amazon.com continues to be a terrible performer, getting only 9 points!
As was the case last year, the toys and children's products industry still scores the worst - six of the eight companies with "0" scores are in that industry.
Why do fast food and children's industries perform so poorly? Because the pressure on the fast food industry is to improve its nutritional profile and the pressure on children's industries is on greater safety, not on addressing climate change.
Industry sector leaders are (scores in parentheses):
- Airlines: Lufthansa (77)
- Apparel/Accessories: Nike (89)
- Beer: Heineken (79)
- Banks: Bank of America (86)
- Consumer Shipping: UPS (89)
- Food Products: Unilever (91)
- Food Services: Starbucks (69)
- Home and Office: Herman Miller (66)
- Hotels: Marriott (70)
- Household Products: L'Oreal (87)
- Internet/Software: Google (64)
- Large Appliances: AB Electrolux (87)
- Media: News Corporation (67)
- Pharmaceuticals: Johnson & Johnson (82)
- Technology (formerly Electronics): IBM (86)
- Toys & Children’s Equipment: Hasbro (73)
Some Corporate Leaders Soar
Since 2007, the average scores have doubled, demonstrating the progress corporations are making.
This year, Cliimate Counts recognized companies that earn 85 points or higher, creating a new “Soaring” tier.
15 companies hit that mark: Unilever, UPS, Nike, Levi Strauss, L'Oreal, AB Electrolux, IBM, Bank of America, Stonyfield Farm, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola Company, Group Danone, Sony, Siemens and Reckitt-Benckiser.
"The new tier of 'Soaring' companies in the Climate Counts index is anything but an indication of mission accomplished. Far from it - it's a two-pronged wake-up call,” says Wood Turner, Climate Counts board chair and vice president of sustainability Innovation at Stonyfield Farm, which had a hand in the launch of the Climate Counts index.
“First, it should remind lagging companies exactly how far off the pace they actually are in tooling themselves for a very different future marketplace. And second, it should tell U.S. lawmakers that many of the world's biggest job creators consider climate leadership a winning and essential business strategy demanding serious and immediate public policy support," he says.
A report released earlier this year shows that almost a third (31%) of companies say sustainable business practices now contribute to their profits, and 70% say it's now permanently esconsed in their management strategy.
Compare our news on this year's ranking with stories we post in 2011 and 2010.
Downlead the report and iPhone app: