16 January 2020

2019’s Top 10 Business Leaders in Sustainability

Change starts with a decision, whether it be by a person, group or organization. Leaders all around the world are the key to creating shifts towards an economy that focuses on responsible consumption and production. The good news is that the movers and shakers of the industry are finally listening to the call of United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and more and more players are now becoming more sustainable in their business approach to contribute to the realization of these goals.  

As most consumers become more aware of the impact big companies can have on today’s most critical social issues, branding themselves as sustainable companies have become more important and they have started to address these social issues in their sustainability programs. As such, more than 90% of CEOs say that sustainability is fundamental to success.

To celebrate the growing concern for sustainability, not just for the ordinary citizen but for large companies as well, below is a list of the top ten companies who have been proactive in their move towards responsible consumption and production. The companies listed below scored high on the Corporate Knights’ 2019 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list. The scoring methodology is built on 21 key performance indicators (KPIs) based on UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals such as SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 13: Climate Action, and SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. These businesses were also assessed on universal KPIs: Percentage Tax Paid, Pension Fund Status, Supplier Sustainability Score, Women in Executive Management, Women on Boards, Sustainability Pay Link, Sanctions Deductions, and Clean Revenue.

Chr. Hansen Holding A/S

Country: Denmark

GICS Industry: Food or other Chemical Agents

Chr. Hansen promotes wider adoption of natural solutions by developing microbial solutions (or “good bacteria”) for the pharmaceutical, agricultural, food, and nutritional industries. The company’s focus on sustainability aims to contribute to nutritious, safe, and healthy solutions for the global consumer. 80% of their revenues come from developing natural solutions for preserving foods like yogurt and milk, protecting crops using natural bacteria instead of pesticides, and alternatives to antibiotics for animals.

Kering SA

Country: France

GICS Industry: Apparel and Accessories 

Kering promotes a modern and sustainable luxury at the service of creation that translates into unique and authentic. The business uses three pillars for its sustainability model: care, collaborate and create. Kering SA focuses on minimizing their resource consumption and environmental footprint, crafting innovative solutions, and creating a respectful and collaborative environment for their employees. They currently source more than 40% of their products from certified sustainable sources. 

Neste Corporation

Country: Finland

GICS Industry: Petroleum Refineries

Neste develops renewable, low-emission, and circular solutions for the marine, transportation, aviation, and chemical and plastics industries to urge its consumers to reduce their crude oil dependency and climate emissions. Only recently the firm shifted from being a fossil fuel company to now having more than 50% of Neste’s investments in the development of products like renewable biofuels. 



Country: Denmark

GICS Industry: Wholesale Power

Ørsted’s main areas of business are within Offshore wind, Bioenergy, and Markets. Each area contributes to its vision of a planet that runs entirely on green energy. The business’ sustainability strategy zones in on green energy using approaches like phasing out coal use and using wind and solar power. Ørsted’s main goal is to help make society entirely reliant on sustainable energy. They have taken action by reducing their CO2 emissions 27 years faster than science demands for the energy sector.

GlaxoSmithKline plc

Country: United Kingdom

GICS Industry: Biopharmaceuticals

The biopharmaceuticals giant uses a three-pronged approach in promoting sustainability. GlaxoSmithKline’s goal is to improve health security and global health using medical innovations, improving healthcare access by making their products more available to the market, and creating a workplace that embraces inclusion and diversity as well as the well-being of their people. 

Prologis, Inc.

Country: United States

GICS Industry: Real Estate Investment Trusts

With a strong dedication to environmental stewardship, Prologis, Inc. provides energy-efficient and industry-leading real estate facilities and solutions to help its market operate more efficiently and sustainably. It also partners with community organizations for environmental and social initiatives and encourages its employees and suppliers to reduce their environmental impacts. In 2018, they were able to acquire 374 sustainable building certifications totaling 139 million square feet in 18 countries.


Country: Belgium

GICS Industry: Primary Metals Products

Umicore promotes recycling of its materials in response to resource scarcity problems, follows strict compliance for emissions, and pushes their rechargeable solutions for vehicle electrification. The business also aims to make its supply and product value chain follow a more sustainable and ethical sourcing approach. 

Banco do Brasil S.A. 


Country: Brazil

GICS Industry: Banks

The Banco do Brasil S.A. has earmarked $51.19 billion for sectors in the green economy. It also focuses on the sustainable use of resources, the lowering of carbon emissions, and the improvement of social inclusion by consolidating all actions with socio-environmental bias when it comes to the improvement of their businesses and processes.

Shinhan Financial Group Co.

Country: South Korea

GICS Industry: Banks

The group is South Korea’s first financial holding firm to sell $500 million in green and sustainability bonds—special-purpose bonds that merge bonds for renewable energy projects, green bonds for environmental improvement, and social bonds for social projects that target to help small companies and low-income households. In an effort to enhance the mid to long-term values of customers, society and shareholders, the company has also set up its “2020 CSR Strategies” in an attempt to proactively respond to a changing sustainability management environment. 

Taiwan Semiconductor

Country: Taiwan

GICS Industry: Semiconductor Equipment

The business focuses on green manufacturing and has launched an energy conservation project that uses energy-saving and carbon-reducing designs. The company is also a big advocate of reducing energy consumption and volatile organic gas emissions. In 2018, they were able to increase their recycling rate to 95%, exceeding 90% in 10 consecutive years.

What can we learn from these companies?

Businesses with undying commitment towards responsible consumption and production are found to have longer staying power, more satisfied investors, and cleaner revenue. More so, they also enjoy better workplace environments due to their focus on gender equality and leadership. The world’s top 10 most sustainable companies in 2019 were voted by Corporate Knights—they are known to be thought leaders who are setting a new standard for other companies to measure up to.