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Sustainability Rankings, Ratings and Indexes, Oh My!

More than 300 different organizations claim to certify organizations, facilities, processes products or services as “green” or “sustainable.” The alphabet soup of organizations and certifications seems to have no limits, with new rankings, ratings and indexes seemingly appearing on the scene almost monthly.

So what is an organization to do?

The first and most important step is research – not all ratings are created equal. Some ratings are frighteningly rigorous, others are “pay to play” and you’re in, and most others are somewhere in between. Some are geared to investors while others are consumer-oriented. Some systems you apply for, while others evaluate you without your knowledge and decide whether you’re worthy of being listed. Some work hard to include you but may be quick to drop you if you fall below certain criteria. Some won’t even consider you if you’re in businesses involved in animal testing, tobacco, weapons, alcohol and gambling. Some factor “reader opinions” into their ratings.

Once you have done your own research, if you’re interested, the ideal next step is to consult with a sustainability expert (in-house or external resource) to help you determine which rankings, ratings and indexes fit your business, goals and strategies. For many organizations, for example, the best opportunities will lie in pursuing sector-specific listings (e.g. sector indexes associated with the Dow Jones Sustainability Index). Many organizations also find it helpful to use the ranking systems for benchmarking and planning – even if they’re not going to proactively participate in the systems.

Here are some good places to start the research:
- Dow Jones Sustainability Index
- Carbon Disclosure Project
- KLD 400
- Calvert Social Index
- Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World
- Green Good Housekeeping Seal
- Good Company Seal
- U.S. Green Building Council
- Walmart Sustainability Index

What rating systems do you look at?

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