1. VESTAS WIND SYSTEMS
Vestas is the world's leading manufacturer of wind turbines. The Danish company has more than 30,000 wind turbines generating electricity globally and its high-tech systems are 80 per cent recyclable. But it has not come top in the global ranking only because of the products it makes. Vestas obtains 68 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources. And its turbines generate in six to eight months the equivalent energy required to manufacture, transport and take the products down. This makes the turbines carbon neutral within that timeframe.
2. SVENSKA CELLULOSA
The Swedish company SCA makes everything from nappies, sanitary towels and tissues to packaging, papers and pulp. It is Europe's largest private forest owner, all of which is managed to Forest Stewardship Council standard, and all wood supplied to its mills to produce papers must meet FSC criteria. As well, the company has a commitment to use a high proportion of recycled fibre in its tissue products. It has policies on avoiding illegal logging and others covering water emissions, and it is replacing oil and coal with some carbon-neutral fuels, such as wood residue and biofuels. SCA also has high rates of waste recovery.
3. ABN AMRO
The Dutch banking group aims to integrate environmental issues into all business decisions to ensure its contribution to a sustainable society. Its external policy is aimed at predicting environmental developments related to its commercial activities. ABN has developed environmental and social risk policies covering the oil and gas, mining and forestry industries, dams and nuclear power.
This Hong Kong railway company is a founding signatory of the HK Corporate Social Responsibility Charter. It is committed to providing leadership in corporate social responsibility practices and promoting the principles of responsibility by managing its environmental effects. The company, which carries an average of 2.5 million passengers every weekday, considers the lifecycle of its products through a "cradle to grave" approach.
The Swedish telecoms group is involved in a Design for Environment programme, which gives product designers guidelines on environmental design with an emphasis on reducing energy consumption. Ericsson also addresses the waste electrical and electronic equipment initiative, which aims to minimise the effect of electronic goods on the environment by increasing recycling. It has carried out in-depth lifecycle analysis assessments in its 3G system which, in independent reviews, have shown a positive environmental outcome can be achieved.
6. WESTPAC BANKING
Sustainability is integral to the Australian-owned bank's values and core business strategy. The company has adopted the Equator Principles, a framework for managing environmental and social risk in project finance. Through BT Financial Group, the bank offers a range of "socially responsible investment" products.
The owner of the DIY-chain B&Q is the highest-ranked British company because of its ambitious targets for zero waste at stores and exceptional rates of Forest Stewardship Council certification of timber. B&Q UK obtains more than 70 per cent of its timber from FSC sources. Europe's largest home-improvement retailer works with WWF and the Tropical Forest Trust on issues related to obtaining timber. It also has a proactive stance on chemicals. All Kingfisher's operating companies will by next year be required to have action plans to identify products containing certain chemicals and work with vendors to investigate opportunities for removal or substitution.
The Dutch electronics company has a policy of embedding sustainability into its organisation and culture, product design, manufacturing processes and business strategy. Specific sustainability issues addressed include the energy efficiency of buildings, with a goal of zero net energy buildings, energy efficiency and chemical content of products, recycling schemes and lifecycle analysis.
9. BT GROUP
The British telecoms group signed a three-year electricity supply contract in 2005 that provides nearly all its electricity from renewable sources and combined heat and power plants. As well, through energy efficiency, BT has exceeded its targets for reducing electricity use. It also scores highly on green procurement, water minimisation and waste minimisation.
The Japanese electronics company designs products with improved environmental efficiency and with minimal impact on the environment in mind. It also creates products that solve or address environmental problems.
Another Japanese electronics company, Sanyo incorporates sustainability into its business. It assesses the effect impact products will have by using a product certification system. It has zero emission targets in the areas of greenhouse gases, waste and chemical substance emissions, and evidence that progress is being made towards these targets. The company recycles 99.8 per cent of its waste.
Swiss electronics company ABB aims to become a carbon-neutral organisation. The company carries out a lifecycle assessment study, including its contributions to global warming and ozone depletion, on all major products, and aims to increase its use of recycled or reuseable materials.
How the companies were rated
The Independent and Ethical Investment Research Service (EIRIS) ranking is based on a wide range of objective criteria. Researchers looked at management systems, waste production and water use, and climate change-related improvements. Companies' involvement in positive technology, such as renewable energy, was also studied, as were issues related to certain industries.
Stephanie Maier, strategic research development manager at EIRIS - which researches the social, environmental and ethical performance of companies, said: "Drawing on our research of almost 3000 companies, we chose a selection of environmental sustainability criteria to highlight some of the leaders in the field. These criteria, covering issues such as climate change, reflect some of the key concerns of investors."
The ranking is based on companies in the FTSE All World Developed Index and information comes from a variety of sources.