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The Newsweek Green Business Rankings: Legit or Greenwashing? The Newsweek Green Business Rankings: Legit or Greenwashing?

The Newsweek Green Business Rankings: Legit or Greenwashing?

by Siobhan O'Connor
September 23, 2009

So there's a new definitive-seeming list out ranking 500 companies on how green they are. Newsweek's list is numbered, which means it's bound to spark debate as well as a flurry of braggy press releases. You can check out the complete list here. More important than the list, though, is the somewhat-eyebrow-raising methodology.First of all: The companies on the list are the 500 largest American companies by revenue, market capitalization, and number of employees. So contrary to what the "Green Ranking" moniker seems to indicate-as well as its banner-ad promise to reveal "America's greenest companies"-the list is not actually made up of America's greenest companies at all. Instead, it's a snapshot of how America's biggest richest companies are performing in terms of their greenness.Among the factors measured are a company's internal green policies (and performance based on those policies), their "reputation" for greenness (public opinion, basically?), and finally a company's total environmental impact.A particularly useful thing about the data compiled-or so I would guess-is that it's the first time we get to look at the largest companies' total greenhouse gas emissions side by side. Unfortunately, though, you have to pay for that part. Want to know big Johnson & Johnson's footprint is? You'll have to buy to complete report for over a grand. If anyone has a copy, let us know.Speaking of J & J: Note that despite the fact that they are one of the largest emitters of toxic crap in their industry, they made the third overall spot. Presumably that means they do a lot to atone for their environmental sins. That counts for a lot in this era of canceling out environmental wrongs instead of just avoiding them in the first place.Anyway, check out the list. It's good fodder for discussion, and a reminder why it's useful to look closely at surveys like this before you start giving out pats on the back willy-nilly.
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