Danish energy firm named world’s ‘most sustainable’

Ørsted’s rise to pole position represents an extraordinary turnaround for firm


Danish renewable energy firm Ørsted has topped a global list of the world’s most sustainable corporations.

The Global Top 100 list, compiled by publishing and research firm Corporate Knights, ranked the world’s 100 most sustainable companies after a rigorous assessment of 7,395 companies with more than $1bn in revenues.

Ørsted’s rise to pole position represents an extraordinary turnaround for firm, which by its own admission was one of the most fossil fuel intensive energy companies in Europe a decade ago.

“The Global 100 top rank is a humbling recognition of our transformation from a fossil fuel-based energy company to a global green energy company in the past decade,” Henrik Poulsen, CEO of Ørsted, stated.

“As the global leader in offshore wind, we’ve substantially grown our business while significantly reducing our carbon emissions. We have reduced our carbon emissions by 83%, and by 2025, we’ll be essentially carbon neutral in our energy generation and operations. We’re reducing emissions much faster than what climate science outlines as necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C,” Poulsen said.

The energy boss admitted that transforming a company the size of Ørsted has not been easy, but necessary.

The energy mammoth has reduced its coal consumption by 73% since 2006, and has pledged to fully phase out coal by 2023. 

Since Ørsted joined the stock market in 2016 through the world’s second-biggest initial public, the company’s value has more than doubled to US$40 bn.

Last year’s top-ranked company, Chr. Hansen, a Danish bioscience company that uses “good bacteria” to provide natural means for preserving food, protecting plants and reducing overreliance on antibiotics in livestock farming – ranked number two overall.

Third was another Nordic company, Finland’s Neste, an oil refiner that is switching from refining crude oil to using cooking waste and other bio-based materials as a feedstock.

Fourth was US technology conglomerate Cisco, which rose 10 places from last year, thanks to more than $25bn in clean revenues from products with environmental core attributes.

American software group Autodesk, which came fifth, rose 43 places from its 2019 ranking, after using 99% renewable energy to run its cloud platforms.

Analysis of the company age and financial performance of the 2020 Global 100 appears to demonstrate that top sustainability performers tend to last longer and perform better for investors than comparable companies. 

The average age of a Global 100 company is 83 years, while the average age of a company in the MSCI ACWI is 49 years, according to Corporate Knights.

Investment returns were compared using the “Global 100 Index. From its inception on 1 February 2005, to 31 December 31 2019, the Global 100 Index made an annualized net investment return of 7.3% compared to 7% for the MSCI ACWI, Corporate Knights added.

While 49 of this year’s Global 100 companies hail from Europe, 29 are from the US and Canada, and 18 derive from Asia. Latin America boasts just three members on the list, all from Brazil, and South Africa’s Standard Bank was the only representative of the African continent.

The list includes 28 companies that were not on the Global 100 last year.

BYD, China’s biggest electric carmaker, is a new entrant, along with Hong Kong’s Vitasoy.


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