The most sustainable companies in Europe

Marta Zadravec

Europe is front-and-centre in the tidal shift towards more sustainable business, driven by far-reaching regulations. Nearly half the world’s most sustainable companies are in Europe. France paves the way with nine sustainable companies in the ranking, followed by Finland with six companies of 100.

European countries have typically been leaders in the fight against climate change, with many ranking lowest in carbon emissions globally and highest in environmental quality. The newest trillion-euro investment plan looks to solidify Europe as the global example for combating global warming as other continents like Asia and North America continue to produce high carbon emissions and lag in renewable energy sources.

We took top 3 companies in Europe that rank high on corporate sustainability criteria. 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.

Some of the criteria used for measurement of corporate sustainability include financial management, employee management, resource management and clean revenue.

Ørsted A/S

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.

Ørsted A/S operates through three segments: Wind Power, Bioenergy and Thermal Power, and Distribution and Customer Solutions. According to media, they have recently signed a deal described as “the world’s largest renewables corporate power purchase agreement.” Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company – purchased all the energy produced by Orsted’s yet-to-be-built 920-megawatt offshore wind farm off Taiwan.

Nevertheless, Ørsted attributes its dramatic transformation to the societal demand for green energy and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

Chr. Hansen Holding A/S

Chr. Hansen took second place in 2020 among the worlds most sustainable companies. Chr. Hansen’s score improved to 83.9% from 82.99%. Moreover, Ørsted A/S jumped to No. 1 in 2020 from No. 4 in 2019 as its overall score improves to 85.2% from 80.13%.

The company is developing microbial solutions for the food, nutritional, pharmaceutical and agricultural industries. Sustainability is an integral part of Chr. Hansen’s vision to improve food and health. In 2019 Chr. Hansen has ranked as the world’s most sustainable company by Corporate Knights thanks to strong sustainability efforts.

Chr. Hansen scored high marks in clean revenue, which Corporate Knights defines as the percentage of a company’s total revenue derived from products and services categorized as clean.

Neste Oyj

Neste Oyj ranked as the world’s third most sustainable company on the Corporate Knights’ Global 100 list of the world’s most sustainable corporations.

“Our company’s purpose is to create a healthier planet for our children, particularly through tackling the climate crisis. In this work, we need everyone on board. It is great to see more and more companies placing sustainability at the core of their strategies worldwide” – says Peter Vanacker, President and CEO of Neste.

Neste has gone through a comprehensive transformation over the past decade: the former local oil company’s aim is now to become a global leader in renewable and circular solutions.

The organizations that make up this list have made significant strides toward sustainability, but there’s still much work to be done, and it’s in their best interest as businesses to do it. The big takeaway when looking at Ørsted and the other companies is how the gorwth in green and sustainable development is moving forward. In this age of climate and carbon constraints and an emerging climate economy, these companies are positioned to succeed.