For all the marketing around green, there’s no escaping the fact that commerce wreaks havoc on the planet.
As the following list of the 15 worst companies for the environment makes very clear, there’s also not much consumers can do to avoid the worst offenders.
The worst companies for the planet, as determined by Newsweek, are mostly utilities. It’s hard to live without electricity. One of the few exceptions is ConAgra, the giant packaged food company. If you go to your kitchen right now odds are you’ll find a ton of ConAgra products.
And it’s not just our food and our energy that come from these environmentally unfriendly companies. Our pension funds and mutual funds are invested in them.
GreenBiz: An analysis of the publicly available data shows that the 50 largest investors in the companies receiving the lowest scores — those ranked 490 through 500 on Newsweek’s list — include three leading public employee pension funds as well as major mutual funds that hold millions of Americans’ retirement accounts, including (in alphabetical order) American Century, Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, TIAA-CREF, and Vanguard Group. All told, the 50 largest investors have sunk more than $55 billion into those worst-rated firms.
As Joel Makower at GreenBiz reports, all the money tied up in these companies is with institutional investors. If people are really worried about the environment, then they have to pressure these groups, even more than the companies themselves to get something done.
Until then, enjoy destroying the world!
The agricultural giant isn't terribly green.
While it's working on many biofuels, it has faced hundreds of millions of dollars worth of lawsuits for various types of pollution. According to Newsweek, it has big environmental impact, and a below average reputation.
Allentown, PA-based electricity company PPL is hell on the world, but at least it's upfront about it.
On PPL's website is a good section on its carbon emissions. Alas, 'PPL currently has no formal greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan in place.' It blames the lack of coherent regulation.
Being ranked the 12th worst company in the world has to hurt Progress Energy a bit.
The company was named to Dow Jones sustainability Index for the fifth year in a row for being a leader at 'managing economic, environmental and social issues.' It even offers customers a chance to buy carbon offsets.
Jim Rogers is one of the most famous utility CEOs out there. He's been on 60 Minutes and The Colbert Report talking about clean energy. He's even said he doesn't see a future for coal in the US.
Despite all his clean energy talk, however, he's Mr. Carbon Emissions.
You just can't generate electricity and not pollute.
As an aside, we saw that the CEO of FirstEnergy took a 25% pay cut as the recession took its toll on the utility. We don't know if this was up to him, but it seems like a decent thing to do.
One of the biggest packaged food companies is also one of the worst for the earth.
In 2006, ConAgra was ripped by CERES for its lack of environmentally responsible behaviour. It apparently didn't do much to fix that in the intervening years.
While it's obviously not doing well on this list, Allegheny appears to be taking some proactive steps, including spending $1.2 billion on clean air technology.
It's also measuring its carbon dioxide emissions, and looking at alternatives.
NRG Energy is another hulking utility that belches pollution. It's also tiptoeing its way into cleaner energy.
It's going to be testing clean coal, with the help of a big check from the DOE. It's also going to build solar and wind farms.
Worst of the worst.
Peabody Energy (BTU) is a coal company, so this makes sense, but boy did they flame out on Newsweek's rankings. Peabody's environmental impact is huge, says Newsweek, and its environmental policies are minimal.
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