While CSR (corporate social responsibility) may have once been an afterthought in boardrooms around the world, it has now become a significant pillar of corporate management. Across regions and industries, corporations are stepping up as problem solvers.
This year, the Corporate Knights released their 13th annual Global 100 list, examining the sustainability efforts of about 4,000 companies with a market value of at least $2 billion. Their methodology looked at 14 key performance indicators (KPIs) covering environmental, social, and financial performance metrics.
The following list looks at the leaders of several industries and what they are doing to remain competitive in today’s challenging market.
#1 in Metals & Mining – POSCO (#35 overall)
The metals & mining industry is typically associated with high emissions due to the high energy consumption required. POSCO is the only corporation listed in the mining & metals industry, ranking 35th among all corporations across all industries.
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POSCO has made significant efforts to be a leader in sustainable manufacturing. Through its smart factory technology, POSCO has refined its production processes, which reduces waste, improves quality, and ensures employee safety. POSCO’s World Premium Product PosMAC has proven to be an ideal solution for solar panels due to its lightweight and durable properties (even being used on floating solar panel farms). More recently, POSCO’s innovations in advanced high strength steels for automobiles have made it the material of choice for automakers looking for low emissions, sustainable solution.
Venturing out beyond the steel sector POSCO developed innovative solutions in the lithium rechargeable battery industry. Its new extraction method takes anywhere from 8 hours up to one month (a significant improvement over previous technologies that took anywhere from 12-18 months). This new technology is also able to extract lithium with a purity rate of 99.9% and increases the recovery rate to over 80% – which reduces the resources needed for extraction making the process more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Beyond steel production, POSCO subsidiaries all over the world work to improve the communities around them. Every year more than 80,000 POSCO employees participate in Global Volunteer Week all over the globe, providing support and assistance to those who need it most. POSCO also sponsors the Beyond program, giving university students the opportunity to give back by helping build homes for those in need.
In addition to The Global 100, POSCO has been listed on the SAM-Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 12 straight years (2005-2016), and World Steel Dynamics (WSD) has named POSCO the most competitive steelmaker in the world for seven years running since 2010. POSCO also recently received awards for its CSR work in China and Southeast Asia.
#1 in Auto Industry – BMW (#16 overall)
For an industry in the midst of radical change and an effort to reposition itself to be more sustainable, BMW leads the group and ranks as the 16th most sustainable corporation.
Sustainability has been an integral piece of the BMW Group’s culture and corporate strategy for decades. In 1973, they became the first automaker to appoint an environmental officer. In 2001, they committed to the United Nations Environment Programme as well as the UN Global Compact and the Cleaner Production Declaration. Today, BMW has a Sustainability Board that defines the strategic alignment through binding targets.
The Global 100 specifically noted BMW’s holistic approach in encouraging sustainable production throughout its entire value chain. This includes not just environmental protection, but also supply chain sustainability, employee orientation, and social commitment.
In South Carolina, BMW’s plant uses methane gas from a nearby landfill to generate the power and heat needed for production. In South Africa, they operate a biogas-fuelled heat and power station by processing waste from local cattle and chicken farms.
From planning to production to disposal & recycling, the BMW Group has been dedicated to making each step more sustainable. Apart from advancing electromobility technology in their vehicles, BMW has pushed to purchase raw materials from environmentally and socially friendly sources, reduce environmentally damaging waste water, and use transport vehicles with lower emissions.
BMW sees its future growth as dependent on its ability to become a more sustainable company. Their vision is to be “the most successful and sustainable premium provider of individual mobility” and the measures they have taken are proof of their commitment.
#1 in Industry – Siemens AG (#1 overall)
German industrial conglomerate, Siemens AG, is a major player in the healthcare, energy, industrial, and infrastructure sectors. Siemens defines sustainable development as “the means to achieve profitable and long-term growth…while striving to balance people, environment, and profit.” All of their efforts helped them to be ranked as the most sustainable corporation in the world by the Global 100.
Siemens efforts to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2020 and to be completely carbon neutral by 2030 were a significant factor of its #1 spot. Currently, 50% of energy consumption in Germany come from green energy sources, cutting its 2016 carbon emissions by more than 200,000 metric tons. In the United States, only 20% of its energy comes from renewable sources, but Siemens is on track to have all of its US sites use clean energy sources by 2020. Overall, Siemens plans to shrink its emissions by 750,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2020.
In addition to its commitment to cut its carbon emissions, the Corporate Knights noted Siemens’ efforts to improve the efficiency of energy and water usage, responsible approach to paying taxes, significant investments in innovation, low employee turnover and strong female board representation. More than 30% of the Siemens supervisory board are women and they remain committed to seeing higher representation at lower levels of management as well.
Earlier this year, POSCO CEO Kwon Ohjoon visited Siemens in Germany to learn more about Siemens’ advanced manufacturing technologies and smart factory solutions. Its plant in Amberg is a model smart factory thanks to its 1,000 sensors used to connect its IOT technology, that makes it possible to check for abnormalities at each stage of the production process. These sensors can also stop the production line if any defective products are found and replace them with new ones. Also, with the ability to analyze 50 million pieces of process information per day, Siemens is continuously optimizing its production processes to ensure the lowest possible rate of defects.
POSCO remains committed to working with partners like Siemens while continuing to optimize its plants and processing centers to be more sustainable for its customers, employees, and partners.