Market News

 March 22, 2007
Fortune Magazine Names Business World's Green Giants

 New York, USA (by Green Biz) -- The latest issue of Fortune magazine will be its first-ever green issue, which includes a list of ten companies that go beyond what the law requires to operate in an environmentally responsible way.

The companies cited by Fortune as being ahead of the learning curve on the strategic value of environmentalism in their industries include, in no particular order: Honda, Continental Airlines, Suncor, Tesco, Alcan, PG&E, S.C. Johnson, Goldman Sachs, Swiss RE and Hewlett-Packard. In separate stories, Fortune also notes the environmental efforts of Patagonia and DuPont, along with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In his introduction to the package, Fortune senior writer and GreenBiz guest columnist Marc Gunther notes that "big business and environmentalists used to be sworn enemies -- and for good reason. General Electric dumped toxins into the Hudson River. Wal-Mart bulldozed its way across America. DuPont was named the nation's worst polluter. The response from the environmental movement: mandate, regulate, and litigate."

Gunther writes that those days are mostly over: "Today big companies and activists are at least as apt to hammer out a partnership over a cup of sustainably grown coffee as to confront one another in court. No, they do not always see eye to eye, but the areas of common ground are getting broader. Why? For one thing, because there is money to be made."

To select the companies on the "Green Giants" list Fortune began by soliciting nominations from environmentalists and consultants who have worked in the trenches of corporate America. Drawing from a list of nearly 100 nominated companies, Fortune decided to concentrate on bigger firms because their environmental footprint is more important. Fortune also left out two very big companies, GE and Wal-Mart, whose environmental initiatives have been widely covered.

Gunther added on his blog, "Compiling the list was challenging, for two reasons. First, so many companies are doing so much good work on environmental issues that selecting 10 green leaders proved harder than we expected. Second, we struggled to decide what criteria to use-the company with the most impact? the lightest environmental footprint? the most innovative ideas? In the end, we consulted with about a dozen experts and made a bunch of frankly subjective picks."

Other stories in Fortune's green issue examine specific business cases. In "Eminence Green," Susan Casey takes a look at how Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard took his passion for the outdoors and turned it into a truly radical business. Decades before recycling became common practice, Patagonia was reusing materials.

Patagonia was also was one of the first companies in America to provide onsite day care, both maternity and paternity leave, and flextime. It used its lushly designed mail-order catalog to speak out about issues like genetically modified food and overfishing, proving that a company can benefit from having a voice and a moral compass. Along the way, Patagonia's conscience has rubbed off on others, from smaller enterprises like Clif Bar to larger ones like Levi Strauss and the Gap.

In "Chemical Reaction," Nicholas Varchaver examines how DuPont, the 205-year-old chemical company is focused on improving the environment and is making a fortune doing it. According to Varchaver, "since 1990 the company has been working its way through the two stages of sustainability: first, drastically reducing how much it pollutes (an effort that continues), and second, embracing sustainability as a strategic goal. DuPont's journey makes it a good test case to examine the opportunities--and challenges--for big industrial companies that want to make environmentalism both an operational imperative and a core principle."

Finally, in "California Dreamin'," Fortune Washington bureau chief Nina Easton interviews California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger regarding his mission to make his state, and the GOP, leaders on the environment. When asked if the GOP get the issue of the environment Schwarzenegger says "No. There are people in both parties who don't get it, but I would say I have a tougher time selling those things to the Republicans."

When asked if he sees alarmism in the discussion of global warming, the Governor replies "Let's assume for a second that global warming is 10% less of a problem. No matter what percentage you take off, we are in big trouble. That's the reality. We've seen the photographs of glaciers melting. We know that is a phenomenon that is happening. We know that the water is rising. We know that we are polluting the world. All of this is reality."