The 2023 Global 100 ranking of the world’s most sustainable companies, published by Corporate Knights, is now in its 19th year and reveals that the transition is gathering momentum and that businesses that take sustainability seriously are flourishing financially.

A fifth of Global 100 companies are US-based, making it the leading country for members of the index, followed by Canada with 11%. However, as a region, Europe still leads the way with 44%, while Asia Pacific hosts 22% of the ranking companies.

Sporting goods companies Puma and adidas have remained on the list, improving their rankings, from 77 to 47, and from 82 to 66, respectively.

Activewear company Gildan also improved its ranking from 79 to 60, and was the only apparel manufacturing company included on the list globally. While luxury goods company Kering slid down the list from number 12 last year to 31.

Glenn Chamandy, president and CEO of Gildan, said: “We are pleased to be recognised by Corporate Knights’ once more, demonstrating Gildan’s strong commitment to ESG. Our increased ranking reflects our dedication and hard work in developing and advancing our Next Generation ESG strategy over the past year which includes increasing gender diversity, focusing on sustainable investments, employee safety, and linking executive compensation to ESG targets, amongst other initiatives. Under this strategy, we are driving ESG further into our business and remain committed to the path ahead to ensure that our products are made with respect for our people, the environment, and our communities from start to finish.”  

Corporate Knights’ 2023 ranking of the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations is based on a rigorous assessment of more than 6,000 public companies with revenue over US$1bn. All companies are scored on applicable metrics relative to their peers, with 50% of the weight assigned to sustainable revenue and sustainable investment. Nine of the indicators have fixed weights; the rest are assigned weights according to each industry’s relative impact in relation to the overall economy. After quantitatively analysing data for 25 key performance indicators, using the Corporate Knights methodology, this year’s overall scores were converted to letter grades.

Ralph Torrie, Corporate Knights’ research director, says rising oil prices have stimulated growth in renewables, smart buildings, electric vehicles and other climate solutions, including circular economy measures. Indeed, the top-ranked company, Schnitzer Steel, is a metals recycler. “Global 100 companies are providing the products and services that are needed for the sustainability transition and that will form the basis of the emerging 21st-century economy,” says Torrie. “They’ve outperformed the market through these last few tumultuous years.”

But while improved productivity scores for carbon, energy, water and other environmental performance indicators are often collateral benefits of underlying megatrends, such as increasing electrification, energy efficiency and digitisation, the improvement in sustainable revenues and investments is generally the result of much more deliberate corporate investment policies and strategic decisions, Torrie says. “Very often, there is visionary leadership from the CEO, and the company has a clear view of the way the world is headed and how to get ahead of it.”