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World’s most sustainable companies invest three times more than average into green activities – and it pays off

More than half of investments go to green themes, compared to 17% on average.
Melodie Michel
World’s most sustainable companies invest three times more than average into green activities – and it pays off
Photo by Derek Sutton on Unsplash

The world’s 100 most sustainable companies, as ranked by Canadian non-profit Corporate Knights, consistently generate higher returns than average – and invest three times more than most into green activities.

Now in its 20th year, the latest Global 100 Index published today by Corporate Knights shows that the world’s most sustainable companies have seen returns of 295% on average since 2005, compared to 278% for the MSCI ACWI, which tracks almost 3,000 large and mid cap firms across 47 countries. 

Source: Corporate Knights

But sustainable firms also spend a lot more on green initiatives, with an average of 55% of capital expenditure, research and development and acquisitions going to “green themes”. This is more than three times the average (17%) spent by large companies with revenues of more than US$1 billion.

More than half of revenue generated from green products

“The Global 100 index has outperformed over time because Global 100 companies back up their green commitments with their investment dollars,” said Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights. “Sustainable investment themes like clean energy are growing exponentially, and the Global 100, across sectors, are helping to drive and are poised to thrive in the low-carbon economy.” 

As a result of larger sustainable investment, the 100 companies in the index get more than half (51%) of their revenue from green products and services, compared to the global average of 16%. For CEOs concerned about the survival of their company, this report suggests that prioritising green investments pays off.

Source: Corporate Knights

Global 100 Index methodology and results

The influential ranking compares the environmental and social impacts of 6,733 publicly traded companies with more than US$1 billion in revenue – and filters out any firm with exposure to weapons or traditional fossil fuel stocks. According to Corporate Knights, this exclusion makes the index’s financial performance even more notable, since the weapons and fossil fuels industries “have benefited from geopolitical instability over the past two years”.

Australian metal recycler Sims Ltd topped the index this year, followed by logistics pooling firm Brambles (also from Australia), and Danish wind turbine maker Vestas. The full ranking is available here.

Interestingly, not all companies on the list have set a climate commitment – proving once again that sustainability action weighs much more than pledges.

Additionally, Corporate Knights also awarded a “pivot prize” to Italian energy firm ERG SpA, which sold off its last fossil fuel asset in 2023 after announcing its intention to become a green energy company.