Corporate Knights, the Toronto-based environmental consultancy, has produced its 2021 league table of the 100 most sustainable companies in the world, including a number that work in, or supply products to, the construction sector.
The list, distilled from around 8,000 companies with a revenue greater than $1bn, has been produced annually since 2005 and is now recognised as a leading indicator of corporate social responsibility.
Top of the list is Schneider Electric, the French multinational that makes building management systems, among other automation and software products.
According to the report the company has spent the past 20 years moving away from making conventional electrical distribution equipment to focus on data centres and decentralised electrical distribution, including off-grid solar storage.
Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Schneider Electric’s chairman and chief executive, said of his company’s placement: "It is great recognition of more than 15 years of engagement to make our company and the world greener and more inclusive. Sustainability is a journey that we accomplish with our people, partners, suppliers, customers and communities where we operate. This recognition goes also to all of them."
Second in the rankings is another company that has reinvented itself: Denmark’s Orsted. It was founded in 1972 to manage Denmark’s North Sea oil and gas resources, became an energy utility in 2005, and four years later announced that it had set itself the target of generating 85% of its energy from sustainable sources. It is now the world’s largest developer of offshore wind power, accounting for 29% of global installed capacity and producing 88% of its energy from renewable sources.
The highest-placed construction company is multidisciplinary consultant Stantec, which is based in Edmonton, Alberta.
Gord Johnston, Stantec chief executive, said in the introduction to the company’s 2019 sustainability report that environmental concern was "ingrained in the very fabric of our business". He went on: "Enabling our clients and communities to address their sustainability and resilience challenges isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s an immense business opportunity."
More specifically, the company has identified four main areas where sustainability can drive expansion: coastal resilience, ecosystem restoration, smart cities and urban places, and the energy transition.
UK-based Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure came 12th in the list. This company manages almost 1.5GW of renewable energy generation and produces 10 million cubic feet of water a day. It operates mainly in the Americas, with some presence in the Middle East and North Africa.
Other construction companies to figure include Owens Corning, the Ohio-headquarteredÂ maker of roofing and insulation products (15th), Spanish renewable energy outfit Iberdrola (19th), Denmark’s Vesta Wind Systems (21st), German engineering giant Siemens (25th) and Swiss electrical and automation engineer ABB (33rd).
Spanish infrastructure specialist Acciona (31st) was the highest placed contractor. It has made sustainability a central consideration in its selection of projects, and by the end of 2019, 93% of its investments and 83% of its gross operating profit qualified as "low carbon'", according to the EU’s new classification of business activities (see further reading).
Singaporean real estate company City Developments (40th) was the highest placed property company. Autodesk, the US maker of construction design and project management software, came 43rd.
Altogether, European companies dominated the list, with 41 of the 100 positions, thanks in large part to Scandinavia’s high ethical standards. It is followed by 20 American and 13 Canadian companies. There were also new entrants from Turkey and India, which the organisers note "reflects a growing and potentially transformative Asian presence among the world’s most sustainable companies".
Image: Stantec’s image of its 170 Tracer Lane office in Massachusetts, which was awarded LEED Gold certificationÂ