US companies outperform at Davos sustainability awards

Unilever wins 10th consecutive top annual award for governance, social, economic and environmental criteria in KPMG’s Sustainability Yearbook 2013 awards

Companies from the US, Germany and South Korea topped the list of gold medal winners at the Davos-based Sustainability Yearbook 2013 awards for social, economic, governance and environmental performance, while Unilever became the only company ever to lead its sector 10 times in a row.

The Sustainability Yearbook, an annual guide meant to point investors to companies that are working the most toward sustainable business, gave gold stars to nine companies from the US, the country with the most entries, and six each from Germany and South Korea, according to organizers KPMG and Zurich-based sustainable investment advisory firm RobecoSAM.

Winning US companies include PepsiCo and Molson Coors Brewing in the beverages sector, Baxter International in the medical products sector, Sonoco Products in containers and packaging, Alcoa in the aluminum sector and Herman Miller in furnishing.

A company is chosen based on 120 ‘financially material economic, environmental, social and governance criteria specific to its own industry with a focus on long-term value creation,’ KPMG says.

A gold medal is awarded to each company that leads its sector, plus any other company that ranks within 1 percent of leadership. This year, 67 companies from 58 sectors won gold medals from among the more than 2,000 companies that entered.

German companies that won gold medals include SAP in the software sector, BMW in automobiles, Adidas in clothing and Siemens in diversified industrials. From South Korea, GS Engineering & Construction won a gold medal for the global heavy construction sector, KT Corp led the fixed-line communications sector and Lotte Shopping won in the general retailers sector.

‘Business is entering a period of unprecedented opportunity and risk due to a potent cocktail of mega-forces including climate change, population growth, water scarcity, urbanization and ecological decline,’ says Yvo de Boer, KPMG’s special global adviser on climate change and sustainability, in a statement.

‘Investors should consider the companies awarded gold medals in the Sustainability Yearbook 2013 as among the best prepared within their own sectors to manage these challenges and make themselves fit for the future.’

Unilever was the only company to have won leadership in its sector for all 10 years of the Sustainability Yearbook’s history, the award organizers say, while Samsung Life Insurance was the company to show the biggest improvement in a single year. The biggest overall improvements came in the banking and real estate sectors – the sectors worst hit since the 2008 global financial crisis.

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