The 10 Most Sustainable Companies in the World (2020)

Company logos of Algonquin, ING, CHR. Hansen, Neste Oyj, Orsted, Autodesk, Cisco, Banco do Brasil and Novozymes

Corporate sustainability has become somewhat of a buzzword in the business world in recent years. As climate change and its adverse effects are finally gaining attention, more people are starting to pay attention to the sustainability practices of big corporations as well as their environmental footprint and climate initiatives. Thankfully, more and more organisations are actively taking steps to integrate sustainability into their operations.

By carefully examining over 7,200 publicly listed corporations with a minimum revenue of $1 billion, Corporate Knights’ Global 100 list showcases the world’s most sustainable companies of 2020.

Out of the 100 who made the cut, however, 10 distinguished themselves from this global ranking through their environmentally sound practices. Without further ado, here are the 10 most sustainable companies in the world.

10. Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp

Industry: Electric utilities

Headquarters: Ontario, Canada

Overall score: 80.89%

As a renewable energy and regulated utility conglomerate, Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp has actively invested in green energy and sustainable utility distribution through its operating subsidiaries Liberty Power and Liberty Utilities. The energy company’s portfolio boasts hydroelectric, wind, thermal and solar power facilities, which serve nearly 1 million people across North America.

The company’s decarbonisation strategy involves acquiring high carbon emission assets and transitioning them into clean energy sources that can power communities by delivering clean and affordable energy. This further reinforces their ‘think global, act local’ business model, which aims to form mutually beneficial relationships between all the company’s stakeholders.

9. Banco do Brasil

Industry: Financial services

Headquarters: Brasilia, Brazil

Overall score: 81.72%

Banco do Brasil has taken definite steps towards an environmentally friendly corporate model. Its sustainability plan, also known as Agenda 30 BB, was formed based on the UN’s sustainable development goals and is focused on five pillars: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

Focused on the green economy sector, the company invested $51.19 billion to fund initiatives that seek to reduce carbon emissions, preserve natural resources and improve environmental management. Banco do Brasil’s decade-long partnership with the National Water Agency and the World Wildlife Fund have allowed the multinational bank to support the agriculture, transportation and energy sectors, enabling Brazil’s transition to a green economy.

8. Enel

Industry: Wholesale power

Headquarters: Rome, Italy

Overall score: 81.77%

Sustainability and innovation are at the core of Enel’s operations. The Italian multinational energy company has committed to six of the UN’s development goals, including providing access to affordable, clean energy, innovation and infrastructure, and climate action.

Through its 2019–2021 sustainability plan, the company has outlined how it aims to address these goals and promote sustainability through its own operations. Having allocated a grand €16.6 billion budget, it plans to invest in the development of renewable energy sources and network digitalisation. Of course, this also applies to its own supply chain by placing emphasis on the slashing of emissions and consumption.

7. ING Group

Industry: Financial services

Headquarters: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Overall score: 82.53%

As a multinational banking corporation, the ING Group has invested billions in green energy projects and organisations committed to battling climate change. ING is also the very first bank in the world that has vowed to exit the coal industry and eliminate its coal power generation by 2025.

By following a strict environmental and social risk framework to evaluate all its transactions, policies and clientele, it has also placed great emphasis on the ecological impact on its financing decisions, aiming to ‘finance change’ through its influence.

The ING Group is also committed to retaining its carbon neutrality, a status that it has held since 2007 through carbon offsetting initiatives. However, its ecological efforts don’t end there, as the global banking corporation aims to power all its buildings worldwide with 100% renewable energy by 2020.

6. Novozymes

Industry: Speciality and performance chemicals

Headquarters: Copenhagen, Denmark

Overall score: 82.70%

Novozymes’ contributions have rightfully earned it a spot among the world’s most sustainable corporations. The biotech company specialises in biological solutions, namely enzymes and microorganisms, that can be used to make products more sustainable. An excellent example of this is Novozymes’ laundry products which, all thanks to enzyme-based solutions, allow consumers to wash laundry at lower temperatures and reduce energy consumption.

In 2019, consumers were able to save 76 million tonnes of carbon emissions by using Novozymes’ products, an equivalent to nearly 32 million cars being taken off the road. Of course, Novozymes’ sustainability efforts extend to its operations and processes, as evidenced in its commitment to divert its energy from coal to wood chips as part of a partnership with Orsted (which also appears on this list).

5. Autodesk

Industry: Software

Headquarters: San Rafael, California, US

Overall score: 82.84%

In Autodesk’s own words, they ‘make software for people who make things’. Indeed, their products are widely used across the manufacturing, architecture, media and entertainment industries. By integrating sustainable design features within their products, Autodesk encourages sustainability by allowing its customers to become pioneers of net-zero energy buildings, smart cities and green manufacturing.

For its own operations, Autodesk relies on 100% renewable energy to power its buildings, data centres and cloud services – a commendable achievement for any energy-intensive business. Thanks to its efforts, the company has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 41% over the last decade, earning it a place among the world’s most sustainable companies.

4. Cisco Systems

Industry: Communications equipment

Headquarters: San Jose, California, US

Overall score: 83.59%

For over a decade, Cisco Systems has been pursuing eco-friendly operations. Starting with its circular economy practices, the pioneering multinational technology company has managed to upcycle over 13,946 tonnes of returned products in 2019.

By 2025, the tech giant aims to incorporate circular design principles in all its new products in a bid to reduce the overconsumption of natural resources by reducing and reusing products and packaging.

Cisco Systems also slashed its greenhouse gas emission by 45% and sourced 82% of its electricity from green energy sources. Meanwhile, its sustainability efforts extend to its suppliers, as the company requires full transparency regarding greenhouse gas emissions and reduction targets to CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) from their part.

3. Neste Oyj

Industry: Petroleum refineries

Headquarters: Espoo, Finland

Overall score: 83.64%

As an oil refining and marketing company, Neste Oyj focuses extensively on producing innovative products with a reduced environmental impact. The company’s extensive portfolio consolidates its mission to replace fossil fuel with clean and renewable alternatives.

Its renewable jet fuel is refined from waste and sustainable raw materials, while its renewable diesel allows drivers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 90%. Among other innovations put forward by Neste are its bio-based plastics and chemicals made from waste and residue fats and oils.

By employing sustainable practices, the company has significantly reduced its carbon footprint through its operations and aims to reach its green goals before the EU meets its own climate targets.

2. Chr. Hansen

Industry: Food and other chemical agents

Headquarters: Hørsholm, Denmark

Overall score: 83.90%

Although Chr. Hansen was dethroned from the top spot in last year’s list, the global bioscience company remains as purpose-driven as ever. In fact, Chr. Hansen has a spotless track record, with its first sustainability commitment dating back to 1949.

Chr. Hansen is dedicated to developing natural solutions such as cultures, enzymes and probiotics used in a range of industries in a bid to reduce food waste, antibiotic overuse and harmful agricultural practices. The company’s sustainable initiatives are aligned with the UN’s SDGs, placing emphasis on promoting efficient food production, using nutritious products for wellbeing and sustainable food consumption.

Beyond its innovative products, sustainability is also part of its daily business activities through its operational targets for the environment and responsible sourcing.

1. Ørsted

Industry: Wholesale power

Headquarters: Fredericia, Denmark

Overall score: 85.20%

As the most sustainable company in the world, Ørsted has come a very long way since its origins. In 2006, its business model took a 180-degree turn, transforming itself from a fossil fuel-intensive energy utility to one of the largest renewable energy companies in the world. Today, it is a leading offshore wind developer, providing over 13 million people with clean energy.

Using the UN’s global sustainability goals as the guiding light for its sustainability programmes and initiatives, the company has taken significant steps towards decarbonising its operations and reducing emissions in its supply chain. Its next target is to become carbon neutral by 2025.

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Sustainability is far beyond a trendy business initiative used for marketing purposes. Companies who opt to truly integrate sustainability within their corporate model do so with due diligence by actively investing in more environmentally sound and ecologically conscious practices, as this global ranking shows.

This can come in many different forms, starting from using clean, renewable energy, averting waste from land fields and funding local community developments. All it takes is for businesses to be willing to take the leap towards a more sustainable and greener future.

Which of these companies’ efforts did you find the most impressive? Let us know in the comments section below!