Mapped: The Countries With the Most Sustainable Corporate Giants
From plastic-filled oceans to unequal pay, sustainability is a hot topic these days. Many people are wondering how we’ll move the needle on these important issues, and the business world is being pressured to take action.
Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.
— Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager
Which of the world’s largest companies are stepping up to the plate on these issues?
The Global 100 Index
Today’s visualization pulls data from Corporate Knight’s 2019 Global 100 report, which ranks the most sustainable corporations in the world.
Any public company with revenue of at least $1B USD is screened for various factors such as sufficient sustainability reporting. The resulting corporations are scored on an industry-specific mix of performance metrics in the following areas:
- Resource Management
- Employee Management
- Financial Management
- Clean Revenue
- Supplier Performance
The final ranking represents the top companies from each sector, with the number from each sector based on the relative size of its market capitalization.
Sustainable Corporations by Country
Here’s all the countries that had companies on the list:
|Country||Number of Companies on the Global 100|
The U.S. tops the list with 22 companies – far more than any other country. European countries also dominate the list and have 51 companies on the G100 overall. Notably, the populous countries of India and China have no representation on the list.
The Top 10 Companies
So, which individual companies made the list? Here’s a snapshot of the star players:
|1||Chr. Hansen Holding A/S||Denmark||Food or other Chemical Agents||82.99%|
|2||Kering SA||France||Apparel and Accessories||81.55%|
|3||Neste Corporation||Finland||Petroleum Refineries||80.92%|
|5||GlaxoSmithKline plc||United Kingdom||Biopharmaceuticals||79.41%|
|6||Prologis, Inc.||United States||Real Estate Investment Trusts||79.12%|
|7||Umicore||Belgium||Primary Metals Products||79.05%|
|8||Banco do Brasil S.A.||Brazil||Banks||78.15%|
|9||Shinhan Financial Group Co.||South Korea||Banks||77.75%|
|10||Taiwan Semiconductor||Taiwan||Semiconductor Equipment||77.71%|
Chr. Hansen Holding A/S leapt from #66 in 2018 to the top spot this year. According to CEO Mauricio Graber, the company develops “cultures, enzymes, probiotics and natural colors for a rich variety of foods, confectionery, beverages, dietary supplements and even animal feed.”
A staggering 82% of Chr. Hansen’s revenue contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals. The company is using good bacteria to reduce antibiotic use, crop pesticides, and food waste. Over the last three years, the company has reduced yogurt waste by 400,000 tonnes.
What’s in it for Companies?
While societal pressure is certainly one motivating factor, Harvard Business Review notes that corporate sustainability has many benefits:
- Drives competitive advantage through stakeholder engagement
- Improves risk management
- Fosters innovation
- Improves financial performance
- Builds customer loyalty
- Attracts and engages employees
It’s clear that sustainability is a strong differentiator in the business community. The world’s largest – and smartest – companies are leading the charge towards a greener, more equitable future.
Our Impact on Climate Change and Global Land Use in 5 Charts
We highlight the five most important takeaways from the IPCC’s recent 1,400+ page report on climate change and land use.
Our Impact on Climate Change and Land Use in 5 Charts
As the world population approaches the eight billion mark, it’s becoming clear that we’re impacting the planet in unprecedented ways.
Humans have made such dramatic changes to Earth’s systems, from climate to geology, that many are suggesting we’ve entered into a new epoch – the Anthropocene.
To better understand the challenges of this era of wide-sweeping human impact on the planet, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced a massive report covering land use and climate change.
According to the IPCC, the situation is looking more dire by the year. Below are a few of the key insights buried within the 1,400+ pages of the massive report.
Shifting Global Land Use
The scale of land use and loss of biodiversity are unprecedented in human history.
According to the report, roughly two-thirds of the world’s ice-free land is now devoted to human uses. Ecosystems, both forested and unforested, only account for about 16% of land today. Part of the reason for this dwindling supply of natural habitat is the rapid increase of agricultural activity around the world.
Since the dawn of the 20th century, global land use has shifted dramatically:
Not only has land use changed, but so has farming itself. In many parts of the world, increased yields will primarily come from existing agricultural land. For example, wheat yields are projected to increase 11% by the year 2026, despite the growing area only increasing by 1.8%. Rice production exhibits a similar trend, with 93% of the projected increase expected to come from increased yields rather than from area expansion. In some cases, intensive farming practices can degrade soil more than 100x faster than the time it takes for new soil to form, leaving fertilizers to pick up the slack.
One of the most dramatic changes highlighted in the report is the nearly eight-fold increase in the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers since the early 1960s. These types of fertilizers are having serious downstream effects on aquatic ecosystems, in some cases creating “dead zones” such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition to the negative impacts outlined above, the simple act of feeding ourselves also accounts for one-third of our global greenhouse gas footprint.
Things are Heating Up
The past half-decade is likely to become the warmest five-year stretch in recorded history, underscoring the rapid pace of climate change. On a global scale, even a small increase in temperature can have a big impact on climate and our ecosystems.
For example, air can hold approximately 7% more moisture for every 1ºC increase, leading to an uptick in extreme rainfall events. These events can trigger landslides, increase the rate of soil erosion, and damage crops – just one example of how climate change can cause a chain reaction.
For the billions of people who live in “drylands”, climate change is serving up a completely different scenario:
“Heatwaves are projected to increase in frequency, intensity and duration in most parts of the world and drought frequency and intensity is projected to increase in some regions that are already drought prone.”
— IPCC report on Climate Change and Land, 2019
This is particularly worrisome as 90% of people in these arid or semiarid regions live in developing economies that are still very reliant on agriculture.
In addition to water scarcity, the IPCC has identified a number of other categories, including soil erosion and permafrost degradation. In all seven categories, our current global temperature puts us firmly in the moderate to high risk zone. These risks predict events with widespread societal impact, such as regional “food shocks” and millions of additional people exposed to wildfires.
This IPCC report makes one thing clear. In addition to tackling emissions in our cities and transportation networks, we’ll need to substantially change the way we use our land and rethink our entire agricultural system if we’re serious about mitigating the impact of climate change.
Mapping the Flow of the World’s Plastic Waste
Every year, the United States exports almost one million tons of plastic waste, including ‘recycled’ materials. Where does all of this waste go?
Mapping the Flow of the World’s Plastic Waste
The first plastic material, Bakelite, was invented in 1907. It made its way into everything you can imagine: telephones, chess pieces, Chanel jewelry, and electric guitars.
But it was in 1950 that our thirst for plastic truly began. In just 65 years, plastic production soared almost 200 times, resulting in about 6,300 million metric tons of waste today.
How does the world deal with this much debris? The truth is, a lot of plastic waste—both trash and recycled materials—is often shipped overseas to become someone else’s problem.
The Top Exporters and Importers of Plastic Waste
In honor of International Plastic Bag-Free day, today’s graphic uses data from The Guardian to uncover where the world’s plastic waste comes from, and who receives the bulk of these flows.
|Top Exporters, Jan-Nov 2018||Top Importers, Jan-Nov 2018|
|🇺🇸 United States||961,563 tons||🇲🇾 Malaysia||913,165 tons|
|🇯🇵 Japan||891,719 tons||🇹🇭 Thailand||471,724 tons|
|🇩🇪 Germany||733,756 tons||🇻🇳 Vietnam||443,615 tons|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||548,256 tons||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||398,261 tons|
The U.S. could fill up 68,000 shipping containers with its annual plastic waste exports. Put another way, 6,000 blue whales would weigh less than this nearly one million tons of waste exports.
Given the amount of plastic which ends up in our oceans, this comparison is just cause for alarm. But one interesting thing to note is that overall totals have halved since 2016:
- Top 21 total exports (Jan-Nov 2016): 11,342,439 tons
- Top 21 total exports (Jan-Nov 2018): 5,828,257 tons
- Percentage change (2016 to 2018): -49%
The world didn’t suddenly stop producing plastic waste overnight. So what caused the decline?
China Cuts Ties with International Plastic Imports
Over recent years, the trajectory of plastic exports has mimicked the movement of plastic waste into China, including the steep plummet that starts in 2018. After being the world’s dumping ground for decades, China enacted a new policy, dubbed “National Sword”, to ban foreign recyclables. The ban, which includes plastics, has left the world scrambling to find other outlets for its waste.
In response, top exporters quickly turned to other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand.
That didn’t completely stop plastic waste from seeping through, though. China previously imported 600,000 tons of plastic monthly, but since the policy only restricted 24 types of solid waste, 30,000 tons per month still entered the country post-ban, primarily from these countries:
- 🇮🇩 Indonesia: 7,000 tons per month
- 🇲🇾 Malaysia: 6,000 tons per month
- 🇺🇸 United States: 5,500 tons per month
- 🇯🇵 Japan: 4,000 tons per month
Many countries bearing the load of the world’s garbage are planning to follow in China’s footsteps and issue embargoes of their own. What does that mean for the future?
Recycle and Reuse; But Above All, Reduce
The immense amounts of plastic waste sent overseas include recycled and recyclable materials. That’s because most countries don’t have the means to manage their recycling properly, contrary to public belief. What is being done to mitigate waste in the future?
- Improve domestic recycling
Waste Management is the largest recycling company in the United States. In 2018, it put $110 million towards building more plastic recycling infrastructure.
Meanwhile, tech giant Amazon invested $10 million in a fund that creates recycling infrastructure and services in different cities.
- Reduce single-use plastics
Recycling on its own may not be enough, which is why countries are thinking bigger to cut down on “throwaway” culture.
The European Union passed a directive to ban disposable plastics and polystyrene “clamshell” containers, among other items, by 2021. More recently, California passed an ambitious bill to phase out single-use plastics by 2030.
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