Mapped: Where Are the World's Most Sustainable Companies?
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Mapped: Where Are the World’s Most Sustainable Companies?

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The Most Sustainable Companies

Where Are the World’s Most Sustainable Companies?

Everywhere you look, sustainability is permeating social, political, and business agendas.

In recent years, an impressive number of companies have stepped up to take a more active role in shaping a more sustainable future—not just in the environmental sense, but also by taking social and governance factors into consideration.

Today’s chart draws from the Corporate Knights Global 100, an annual ranking of the 100 most sustainable companies, to visualize exactly how many are located in each corner of the world. The companies on the list are clear winners not only because they aim to leave the world a better place, but because their stocks have also outperformed the market on average.

How is Corporate Sustainability Measured?

The researchers rely on readily available data for all publicly-listed companies with at least $1 billion in gross revenue (in PPP), as of the financial year 2018.

Companies are then screened for several key performance indicators (KPIs), including but not limited to the following categories and examples:

  • Resource management
    Example: GHGs and other emissions such as NOx and SOx emissions
  • Financial management
    Example: Innovation capacity, or the percentage of R&D spending against total revenue
  • Employee management
    Example: Women in executive management and/or on boards
  • Clean revenue
    Example: The percentage of total revenue derived from “clean” products and services

The concentration of the most sustainable companies also varies greatly depending on where you look. Here’s a closer view of every region.

Europe: 49/100 Sustainable Companies

Europe is front-and-center in the tidal shift towards more sustainable business, driven by far-reaching regulations. With this in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising to see that Europe is a hotbed of activity.

Nearly half the world’s most sustainable companies are located in Europe. France paves the way with nine sustainable companies in the ranking, followed by Finland with six companies of 100.

RankCompanyIndustryCountry
#1Ørsted A/SWholesale Power🇩🇰 Denmark
#2Chr. Hansen Holding A/SFood and other chemical agents🇩🇰 Denmark
#3Neste OyjPetroleum Refineries🇫🇮 Finland
#6Novozymes A/SSpecialty and Performance Chemicals🇩🇰 Denmark
#7ING Groep NVBanks🇳🇱 Netherlands
#8Enel SpAWholesale Power🇮🇹 Italy
#11Osram Licht AGElectrical Equipment and Power Systems🇩🇪 Germany
#13Storebrand ASAInsurance🇳🇴 Norway
#14Umicore SAPrimary Metals Products🇧🇪 Belgium
#17Iberdrola SAWholesale Power🇪🇸 Spain
#18Outotec OyjMachinery Manufacturing🇫🇮 Finland
#20Accenture PLCTechnology Consulting Services🇮🇪 Ireland
#21Dassault Systemes SESoftware🇫🇷 France
#23Kering SAApparel and Accessory Products🇫🇷 France
#24UPM-Kymmene OyjForestry and Paper Products🇫🇮 Finland
#27H & M Hennes & Mauritz ABApparel and Accessories Retail🇸🇪 Sweden
#28Sanofi SABiopharmaceuticals🇫🇷 France
#29Schneider Electric SEIndustrial Conglomerates🇫🇷 France
#31BNP Paribas SABanks🇫🇷 France
#32Kone OyjMachinery Manufacturing🇫🇮 Finland
#33Verbund AGWholesale Power🇦🇹 Austria
#34Valeo SAConsumer Vehicles and Parts🇫🇷 France
#35ERG S.p.A.Wholesale Power🇮🇹 Italy
#37Vestas Wind Systems A/SElectrical Equipment and Power Systems🇩🇰 Denmark
#38bioMérieuxDiagnostics and Drug Delivery Devices🇫🇷 France
#39Intesa Sanpaolo SpABanks🇮🇹 Italy
#40Koninklijke KPN NVWireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇳🇱 Netherlands
#41Siemens AGIndustrial Conglomerates🇩🇪 Germany
#45Koninklijke DSM NVFood and other chemical agents🇳🇱 Netherlands
#46Unilever PLCPersonal Care and Cleaning Products🇬🇧 UK
#52EricssonCommunications Equipment🇸🇪 Sweden
#55Adidas AGApparel and Accessory Products🇩🇪 Germany
#56AstraZeneca PLCBiopharmaceuticals🇬🇧 UK
#59Commerzbank AGBanks🇩🇪 Germany
#61Abb LtdIndustrial Conglomerates🇨🇭 Switzerland
#64Pearson PLCPersonal Professional Services🇬🇧 UK
#65BT Group PLCWireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇬🇧 UK
#66Metso OyjMachinery Manufacturing🇫🇮 Finland
#69Assicurazioni Generali SpAInsurance🇮🇹 Italy
#70Acciona SAFacilities and Construction Services🇪🇸 Spain
#71Novo Nordisk A/SBiopharmaceuticals🇩🇰 Denmark
#73Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken ABBanks🇸🇪 Sweden
#76Ucb S.A.Biopharmaceuticals🇧🇪 Belgium
#79GlaxoSmithKline PLCBiopharmaceuticals🇬🇧 UK
#87BASF SESpecialty and Performance Chemicals🇩🇪 Germany
#94Industria de Diseno Textil SAApparel and Accessories Retail🇪🇸 Spain
#98L'Oreal SAPersonal Care and Cleaning Products🇫🇷 France
#99Kesko CorporationFood and Beverage Retail🇫🇮 Finland
#100Amundi SAInvestment Services🇫🇷 France

Denmark’s Ørsted A/S claims the top of the leaderboard in 2020. Within a decade, the company has completely transformed its business model—shifting away from the Danish Oil and Natural Gas (DONG) company into a pure play renewable energy company. The company recognized the importance of this transition:

Running the company just for profit doesn’t make sense, but running it just for a bigger purpose is also not sustainable in the long term. Doing good and doing well must go together.

—Henrik Poulsen, CEO

Just 10 years ago, DONG was 85%-fossil fuel based, and only 15%-renewables based. Today, Ørsted has flipped these proportions. The company attributes its dramatic transformation to the societal demand for green energy, and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

North America: 29/100 Sustainable Companies

In this region, the U.S. alone is responsible for 17 of the top 100 sustainable companies in the world. What’s more, of the 28 new companies to the 2020 Ranking, Canada is the homebase for nine of these entrants.

RankCompanyIndustryCountry
#4Cisco Systems IncCommunications Equipment🇺🇸 U.S.
#5Autodesk IncSoftware🇺🇸 U.S.
#10Algonquin Power & Utilities CorpElectric Utilities🇨🇦 CA
#15Hewlett Packard Enterprise CoComputer Hardware🇺🇸 U.S.
#16American WaterWater Utilities🇺🇸 U.S.
#22McCormick & CompanyFood and Beverage Production🇺🇸 U.S.
#26Prologis IncReal Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)🇺🇸 U.S.
#44Bombardier IncAerospace and Defense Manufacturing🇨🇦 CA
#47Sims Metal Management LtdPrimary Metals Products🇺🇸 U.S.
#48Bank of MontrealBanks🇨🇦 CA
#49Cascades IncContainers and Packaging🇨🇦 CA
#53Danaher CorporationMedical Devices🇺🇸 U.S.
#54Canadian National Railway CoCargo Transportation and Infrastructure Services🇨🇦 CA
#57Stantec IncFacilities and Construction Services🇨🇦 CA
#58HP IncComputer Peripherals and Systems🇺🇸 U.S.
#60Sun Life Financial IncInsurance🇨🇦 CA
#62Alphabet IncInternet and Data Services🇺🇸 U.S.
#67Comerica IncorporatedBanks🇺🇸 U.S.
#74Tesla IncConsumer Vehicles and Parts🇺🇸 U.S.
#77Workday IncSoftware🇺🇸 U.S.
#78Merck & Co IncBiopharmaceuticals🇺🇸 U.S.
#81Intel CorporationSemiconductor Manufacturing🇺🇸 U.S.
#82Analog Devices IncSemiconductor Manufacturing🇺🇸 U.S.
#83IGM Financial IncInvestment Services🇨🇦 CA
#84Canadian Solar IncElectrical Equipment and Power Systems🇨🇦 CA
#88Cogeco Communications IncWireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇨🇦 CA
#91Teck Resources Ltd.Metal Ore Mining🇨🇦 CA
#93Campbell SoupFood and Beverage Production🇺🇸 U.S.
#96Telus Corp.Wireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇨🇦 CA

Cisco Systems comes in fourth worldwide, partly as a result of its clean revenues worth a stunning $25 billion. Not far behind is Autodesk, which rose an impressive 43 places since 2019. The main factor behind this leap? The software corporation now operates its cloud platforms using 99% renewable energy.

Asia: 16/100 Sustainable Companies

Over in Asia, Japan is a clear leader, boasting six sustainable companies in the list. Interestingly, the companies are from a wide range of industries, from computers (Panasonic) to cars (Toyota).

RankCompanyIndustryCountry
#12Sekisui ChemicalsOther Materials🇯🇵 Japan
#25Taiwan SemiconductorSemiconductor Equipment and Services🇹🇼 Taiwan
#36City Developments LtdReal Estate Investment and Services🇸🇬 Singapore
#43Shinhan Financial GroupBanks🇰🇷 South Korea
#50AdvantechComputer Hardware🇹🇼 Taiwan
#63Capitaland LimitedReal Estate Investment and Services🇸🇬 Singapore
#68Takeda PharmaceuticalBiopharmaceuticals🇯🇵 Japan
#72Konica MinoltaComputer Peripherals and Systems🇯🇵 Japan
#80SamsungElectrical Equipment and Power Systems🇰🇷 South Korea
#85BYD Co.Consumer Vehicles and Parts🇨🇳 China
#86Kao Corp.Personal Care and Cleaning Products🇯🇵 Japan
#89Panasonic Corp.Computer Hardware🇯🇵 Japan
#90VitasoyFood and Beverage Production🇭🇰 Hong Kong
#92Toyota Motor Corp.Consumer Vehicles and Parts🇯🇵 Japan
#95SingtelWireless and Wireline Telecomm. Services🇸🇬 Singapore
#97Lenovo GroupComputer Peripherals and Systems🇨🇳 China

Japanese plastics manufacturer Sekisui Chemicals comes in first in Asia, after an immense improvement of 77 positions in just one year. The company builds environmentally-friendly housing, and 28% of its revenue aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Rest of the World: 6/100 Sustainable Companies

There are a few notable mentions in other regions, too. Brazil’s Banco do Brasil remains in the top ten list, and is one of the three most sustainable companies in all of South America.

RankCompanyIndustryCountry
#9Banco do Brasil SABanks🇧🇷 Brazil
#19CEMIGElectric Utilities🇧🇷 Brazil
#30Natura Cosmeticos SAPersonal Care and Cleaning Products🇧🇷 Brazil
#42National Australia Bank LtdBanks🇦🇺 Australia
#51Standard Bank Group LtdBanks🇿🇦 South Africa
#75Westpac Banking CorpBanks🇦🇺 Australia

More than half of the companies in these remaining regions are banks. Incidentally, financial services are the biggest group in the Global 100 overall.

The Best of Both Worlds

As it turns out, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Altogether, the Global 100 most sustainable companies have consistently outperformed*, and outlasted the average company in the MSCI ACWI (All Country World Index):

MetricG100MSCI ACWI
Annualized Return7.3%7.0%
Average Company Age83 years49 years

*Between 2005-Dec. 31 2019

Corporate sustainability is a significant driving force for urgent climate action, and the sustainable companies on this list acknowledge the triple bottom line of not just making profit, but also creating a lasting impact on people and the planet.

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The World’s 25 Largest Lakes, Side by Side

This unique map graphic uses the Great Lakes region as a point of comparison for the top 25 largest lakes in the world.

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The World’s 25 Largest Lakes, Side by Side

In many parts of the world, you don’t have to look very far to find a lake.

According to satellite data, there are roughly 100 million lakes larger than one hectare (2.47 acres) to be found globally. The largest lakes, which rival the size of entire nations, are more of a rarity.

One might expect the world’s largest lakes to be very alike, but from depth to saline content, their properties can be quite different. As well, the ranking of the world’s largest lakes is far from static, as human activity can turn a massive body of water into a desert within a single generation.

Today’s graphic – created using the fantastic online tool, Slap It On A Map! – uses the Great Lakes region as a point of comparison for the largest 25 lakes, by area. This is particularly useful in comparing the scale of lakes that are located in disparate parts of the globe.

The Greatest Lakes

The largest lake in the world by a long shot is the Caspian Sea – a name that hints at a past when it was contiguous with the ocean around 11 million years ago. This massive saline lake, which is nearly the same size as Japan, borders five countries: Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran. An estimated 48 billion barrels of oil lay beneath the surface of the basin.

The five Great Lakes, which run along the Canada–U.S. border, form one of the largest collections of fresh water on Earth. This interconnected series of lakes represents around 20% of the world’s fresh water and the region supports over 100 million people, roughly equal to one-third of the Canada–U.S. population.

Amazingly, a single lake holds as much fresh water as all the Great Lakes combined – Lake Baikal. This rift lake in Siberia has a maximum depth of 5,371ft (1,637m). For comparison, the largest of the Great Lakes (Lake Superior) is only 25% as deep, with a maximum depth of 1,333ft (406m). Lake Baikal is unique in a number of other ways too. It is the world’s oldest, coldest lake, and around 80% of its animal species are endemic (not found anywhere else).

Here’s a full run-down of the top 25 lakes by area:

RankLake NameSurface AreaTypeCountries on shoreline
1Caspian Sea143,000 sq mi
(371,000km²)
Saline🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
🇷🇺 Russia
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan
🇮🇷 Iran
2Superior31,700 sq mi
(82,100km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
🇺🇸 U.S.
3Victoria26,590 sq mi
(68,870km²)
Freshwater🇺🇬 Uganda
🇰🇪 Kenya
🇹🇿 Tanzania
4Huron23,000 sq mi
(59,600km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
🇺🇸 U.S.
5Michigan22,000 sq mi
(58,000km²)
Freshwater🇺🇸 U.S.
6Tanganyika12,600 sq mi
(32,600km²)
Freshwater🇧🇮 Burundi
🇹🇿 Tanzania
🇿🇲 Zambia
🇨🇩 D.R.C.
7Baikal12,200 sq mi
(31,500km²)
Freshwater🇷🇺 Russia
8Great Bear Lake12,000 sq mi
(31,000km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
9Malawi11,400 sq mi
(29,500km²)
Freshwater🇲🇼 Malawi
🇲🇿 Mozambique
🇹🇿 Tanzania
10Great Slave Lake10,000 sq mi
(27,000km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
11Erie9,900 sq mi
(25,700km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
🇺🇸 U.S.
12Winnipeg9,465 sq mi
(24,514km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
13Ontario7,320 sq mi
(18,960km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
🇺🇸 U.S.
14Ladoga7,000 sq mi
(18,130km²)
Freshwater🇷🇺 Russia
15Balkhash6,300 sq mi
(16,400km²)
Saline🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
16Vostok4,800 sq mi
(12,500km²)
Freshwater🇦🇶 Antarctica
17Onega3,700 sq mi
(9,700km²)
Freshwater🇷🇺 Russia
18Titicaca3,232 sq mi
(8,372km²)
Freshwater🇧🇴 Bolivia
🇵🇪 Peru
19Nicaragua3,191 sq mi
(8,264km²)
Freshwater🇳🇮 Nicaragua
20Athabasca3,030 sq mi
(7,850km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
21Taymyr2,700 sq mi
(6,990km²)
Freshwater🇷🇺 Russia
22Turkana2,473 sq mi
(6,405km²)
Saline🇰🇪 Kenya
🇪🇹 Ethiopia
23Reindeer Lake2,440 sq mi
(6,330km²)
Freshwater🇨🇦 Canada
24Issyk-Kul2,400 sq mi
(6,200km²)
Saline🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan
25Urmia2,317 sq mi
(6,001km²)
Saline🇮🇷 Iran

The Great Lakes World Tour

For people living in Canada and the U.S., the shape and relative size of the Great Lakes system may be quite familiar. This makes the Great Lakes a fantastic point of comparison to help put the size of other world locations into perspective. To this end, we begin our Great Lakes World Tour.

First, the image below shows how the Great Lakes system would look if it was located in India.

great lakes compared with india

Distortions on commonly used maps can downplay the size of India compared to more northern nations. This view of the Great Lakes can help put India’s true size into perspective.

Next, we look at the Great Lakes overlaid within Central Europe.

great lakes compared with europe

In the context of Europe, the lakes are so large that they extend from the Netherlands over to Slovakia. Lake Superior’s surface area of 31,700 mi2 (82,000 km2), is similar in size to Austria. Here’s are the five Great Lakes and European countries of equivalent size:

Great LakesSurface AreaEquivalent CountryArea
Lake Superior82,000 km2 (31,700 sq mi)🇦🇹 Austria83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi)
Lake Huron60,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi)🇱🇻 Latvia64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi)
Lake Michigan58,000 km2 (22,300 sq mi)🇭🇷 Croatia56,594 km2 (21,851 sq mi)
Lake Erie25,700 km2 (9,910 sq mi)🇲🇰 North Macedonia25,713 km2 (9,928 sq mi)
Lake Ontario19,000 km2 (7,340 sq mi)🇸🇮 Slovenia20,271 km2 (7,827 sq mi)

Lastly, here is a look at the Great Lakes in Southern Australia. Australia is the world’s 6th largest country, so the Great Lakes only occupy one corner of its land mass.

great lakes compared with Australia

Australia’s lack of glacial history means that there are few permanent freshwater lakes in the country. Many of the country’s largest lakes only fill up during periods of excessive rainfall.

Shrinking out of the rankings

Not far from the world’s largest lake, straddling the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, lay the sand dunes of the Aralkum Desert. In the not so distant past, this harsh environment was actually the bed of one of the largest lakes in the world – the Aral Sea.

Aral Sea receding 1960 2020

For reasons both climatic and anthropogenic, the Aral Sea began receding in the 1960s. This dramatic change in surface area took the Aral Sea from the fourth largest lake on Earth to not even ranking in the top 50. Researchers note that the size of the lake has fluctuated a lot over history, but through the lens of modern history these recent changes happened rapidly, leaving local economies devastated and former shoreside towns landlocked.

Lake Chad, in Saharan Africa, and Lake Urmia, in Iran, both face similar challenges, shrinking dramatically in recent decades.

How we work to reverse damage and avoid ecosystem collapse in vulnerable lakes will have a big influence on how the top 25 list may look in future years.

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All the Biomass of Earth, in One Graphic

Our planet supports nearly 8.7 million species. We break down the total composition of the living world in terms of its biomass.

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All the Biomass of Earth, in One Graphic

Our planet supports approximately 8.7 million species, of which over a quarter live in water.

But humans can have a hard time comprehending numbers this big, so it can be difficult to really appreciate the breadth of this incredible diversity of life on Earth.

In order to fully grasp this scale, we draw from research by Bar-On et al. to break down the total composition of the living world, in terms of its biomass, and where we fit into this picture.

Why Carbon?

A “carbon-based life form” might sound like something out of science fiction, but that’s what we and all other living things are.

Carbon is used in complex molecules and compounds—making it an essential part of our biology. That’s why biomass, or the mass of organisms, is typically measured in terms of carbon makeup.

In our visualization, one cube represents 1 million metric tons of carbon, and every thousand of these cubes is equal to 1 Gigaton (Gt C).

Here’s how the numbers stack up in terms of biomass of life on Earth:

TaxonMass (Gt C)% of total
Plants45082.4%
Bacteria7012.8%
Fungi122.2%
Archaea71.3%
Protists40.70%
Animals2.5890.47%
Viruses0.20.04%
Total545.8100.0%

Plants make up the overwhelming majority of biomass on Earth. There are 320,000 species of plants, and their vital photosynthetic processes keep entire ecosystems from falling apart.

Fungi is the third most abundant type of life—and although 148,000 species of fungi have been identified by scientists, it’s estimated there may be millions more.

Animals: A Drop in the Biomass Ocean

Although animals make up only 0.47% of all biomass, there are many sub-categories within them that are worth exploring further.

TaxonMass (Gt C)% of Animal Biomass
Arthropods (Marine)1.038.6%
Fish0.727.0%
Arthropods (Terrestrial)0.27.7%
Annelids0.27.7%
Mollusks0.27.7%
Livestock0.13.9%
Cnidarians0.13.9%
Humans0.062.3%
Nematodes0.020.8%
Wild mammals0.0070.3%
Wild birds0.0020.1%
Animals (Total)2.589100.0%

Arthropods

Arthropods are the largest group of invertebrates, and include up to 10 million species across insects, arachnids, and crustaceans.

Chordates

The category of chordates includes wild mammals, wild birds, livestock, humans, and fish. Across 65,000 living species in total, nearly half are bony fish like piranhas, salmon, or seahorses.

Surprisingly, humans contribute a relatively small mass compared to the rest of the Animal Kingdom. People make up only 0.01% of all the biomass on the planet.

Annelids, Mollusks, Cnidarians, and Nematodes

Annelids are segmented worms like earthworms or leeches, with over 22,000 living species on this planet. After arthropods, mollusks are the second-largest group of invertebrates with over 85,000 living species. Of these, 80% are snails and slugs.

Cnidarians are a taxon of aquatic invertebrates covering 11,000 species across various marine environments. These include jellyfish, sea anemone, and even corals.

Nematodes are commonly referred to as roundworms. These sturdy critters have successfully adapted to virtually every kind of ecosystem, from polar regions to oceanic trenches. They’ve even survived traveling into space and back.

The Microscopic Rest

Beyond these animals, plants, and fungi, there are an estimated trillion species of microbes invisible to the naked eye—and we’ve probably only discovered 0.001% of them so far.

Bacteria

Bacteria were one of the first life forms to appear on Earth, and classified as prokaryotes (nucleus-less). Today, they’re the second-largest composition of biomass behind plants. Perhaps this is because these organisms can be found living literally everywhere—from your gut to deep in the Earth’s crust.

Researchers at the University of Georgia estimate that there are 5 nonillion bacteria on the planet—that’s a five with 30 zeros after it.

Protists and Archaea

Protists are mostly unicellular, but are more complex than bacteria as they contain a nucleus. They’re also essential components of the food chain.

Archaea are single-celled microorganisms that are similar to bacteria but differ in compositions. They thrive in extreme environments too, from high temperatures above 100°C (212°F) in geysers to extremely saline, acidic, or alkaline conditions.

Viruses

Viruses are the most fascinating category of biomass. They have been described as “organisms at the edge of life,” as they are not technically living things. They’re much smaller than bacteria—however, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, their microscopic effects cannot be understated.

The Earth’s Biomass, Under Threat

Human activities are having an ongoing impact on Earth’s biomass.

For example, we’ve lost significant forest cover in the past decades, to make room for agricultural land use and livestock production. One result of this is that biodiversity in virtually every region is on the decline.

Will we be able to reverse this trajectory and preserve the diversity of all the biomass on Earth, before it’s too late?

Editor’s note: This visualization was inspired by the work of Javier Zarracina for Vox from a few years ago. Our aim with the above piece was to recognize that while great communication needs no reinvention, it can be enhanced and reimagined to increase editorial impact and help spread knowledge to an even greater share of the population.

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