Energy Future

These companies are the greenest in the world

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Multinational giants BMW, Samsung and Unilever are among those companies recognized for their "superior strategy to reduce their respective carbon footprint," according to a new index published Wednesday.

All three organisations received an "A" grade in an independent report based on environmental data provided by nearly 2,000 of the world's largest listed companies. Other companies amongst those leading the fight against climate change were Apple,Bank of America, Pepco, BT Group, Fiat, Goldman Sachs, L'Oreal and AstraZeneca.

The data which was compiled by CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) a not-for-profit organisation based in the U.K. that encourages companies to measure and manage their environmental impact and to disclose this information. The project works on behalf of institutional investors, customers and governments that are asking companies to report on climate change.

As a result of these insights, the organisation's latest "Climate Performance Leadership index 2014," showing which companies are leaders in terms of reducing their impact on the environment.

Almost half of the 187 companies achieving an "A" grade are headquartered in Europe, with a further third located in U.S. or Japan. Paul Simpson, chief executive and co-founder of CDP, told CNBC that the companies achieving the highest award "are proving that they're taking action on climate change."

"They're measuring and reporting their greenhouse gas emissions, they understand the risks and opportunities climate change presents to their business and they're setting targets to reduce those emissions," he told Europe's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday. "They're investing in projects that are delivering both financial returns and environmental reductions."

Businesses are coming under increasing pressure to show their green credentials. The investors that have requested companies disclose their climate related risks and opportunities through CDP represent $92 trillion, a third of the world's invested capital.

Not all of the big players are willing to disclose such information, however.

Notable for their absence from 2014 index are a number of global companies that CDP said had failed to disclose environmental information, despite shareholder requests. These include Facebook, Amazon, Comcast (CNBC's parent company) and Berkshire Hathaway.

Simpson warned that companies not able or willing to report their environmental data were sending a message of complacency to their shareholders. "It's the companies that are not yet able to report that are telling their investors 'we're not prepared for this issue and we may be exposed to this risk and we're probably not gaining on the opportunity side."

Why companies invest in cutting their carbon footprint
Why companies invest in cutting their carbon footprint

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He denied that companies reacting to climate change would deliver leaner returns than those that concentrated purely on profits. "We know that some global corporations…are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on energy a year, by becoming more efficient and saving this energy, they can reduce these greenhouse gas emissions – that's directly taking costs out of the business."

"There are a finite amount of resources on the planet and every business needs to know how it's going to thrive in that changing world of scarce resources," Simpson remarked.

Investor pressure on corporations to disclose their climate impact has been matched by a growing momentum from governments to change their policies on climate change, particularly as concerns grow over population growth, the competition for resources and the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

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Earlier this year, U.S. President Barack Obama announced new federal rules to limit greenhouse gases. Meanwhile in the European Union, some 6,000 companies will be required to disclose on specific environmental, social and governance criteria as part of their mainstream reporting to investors, it was announced last month. In China, meanwhile, over 20,000 companies will be required to report their greenhouse gas emissions to the government, the CDP reports.

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