The Good, The Bad and The Blind Spot of Corporate Sustainability Rankings

No matter the industry, business stakeholders care about lists – who’s on them and who’s on top. Consider this small sampling: Fast Company’s “50 Most Innovative Companies” list, Fortune’s “Change the World” list, Forbes’ “The World’s Most Reputable Companies” list, or Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work.

Companies spend countless hours every year applying to appear on these lists, vying for the top spot and the ability to market that recognition to customers, investors, and employees. Just think, how many email signatures have you seen that end with “voted the best/most [fill in the blank] company for three years in a row”?

There are myriad psychological reasons why lists are so effective, popular and valuable. In the sustainability field, numerous rankings have emerged to help stakeholders assess corporate environmental performance and identify leaders from among the hundreds that have made environmental commitments.

Beyond bragging rights, sustainability rankings can also provide an essential service to companies by helping them define internal performance measures, attract top talent and link executive compensation to corporate sustainability.

Unfortunately, there’s a significant problem with these sustainability lists.

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New Survey Shows Jump in Fleets Measuring Emissions

PHH Arval released their annual survey on fleet environmental initiatives yesterday. The item that most caught my attention was the percentage of fleets that claimed to be measuring their greenhouse gas emissions — 40%. While that still leaves ample room for growth, it is a significant jump from the 28% reported in 2008.  Differences in the PHH survey methods mean the 2008 and 2009 numbers might not be directly comparable, yet the magnitude of change is consistent with our experience over the past year and the direction is consistent with the trend in the industry toward greenhouse gas measurement becoming a standard practice.

This is good news as measuring emissions is the first step to understanding how to reduce them.  Fleet manager interest in emissions measurement led us to develop an online calculator for fleets and train fleet managers during a seminar at the NAFA annual conference. We also wrote a “how-to” article for Automotive Fleet  magazine. Read more