French tech firm Schneider Electric tops global league of green firms

Paris-based company worth €70bn now seen as world’s most sustainable company on Global 100 index

A Paris-based tech company has seen off competition from the world’s best-known green businesses to be named the most sustainable corporation on the planet.

Schneider Electric has climbed the annual Global 100 index, from a ranking of 29 last year, offering the technology and energy solutions needed by the likes of retailer Walmart, hotel group Marriott and steel business ArcelorMittal to meet their climate targets.

The annual green company league table, compiled by researcher Corporate Knights, ranked over 8,000 publicly listed companies which generate annual revenues of over $1bn to find the most sustainable businesses.

In the latest rankings Schneider ousted Danish windpower giant Ørsted from last year’s top spot, and left most UK firms in its wake, following a surge in the number of companies during the pandemic seeking automated technology to help shrink their carbon footprints.

The rising green ambition among the world’s biggest companies has also helped Schneider, which operates in 100 countries around the world, to more than double its market value in the last two years to more than €70bn (£62bn).

Schneider is one of nine companies in the Global 100 index headquartered in France, the European leader in the company rankings ahead of Germany which is home to seven of the top 100 countries. The US can lay claim to 20 companies in the index, the highest of any country, followed by Canada which has 12 on the list.

The UK, which claims to be a global leader in climate action, has only five companies in the league table and none in the top 10. Britain’s highest-ranking company was Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure, a renewable energy services company, which is the 12th most sustainable company in the world.

Schneider Electric’s long-serving chief executive, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, said the company acts as “doctor and pharmacist” to global companies by diagnosing their sustainability problems and providing the technology to meet their goals.

“For example, Walmart came to us because they want to be greener. But 90% of the [environmental] footprint of Walmart is with its suppliers. So they contracted us to work with their thousands of suppliers to help save 1 gigatonne of carbon over the next 10 years,” he said.

By the end of 2020 more than 2,000 of the US retail giant’s suppliers had saved more than 230m tonnes of carbon – almost a quarter of the 10-year target – after Schneider helped them to adopt renewable-based energy systems.

Tricoire said the company experienced a surge of interest from other firms in 2020, despite the economic fallout of the Covid-19 restrictions.

“At the start of 2020 I feared that people facing a crisis would stop their environmental commitments, but it has been just the contrary,” he said. “The pandemic has made everyone realise that we are vulnerable to natural events, and raised the consciousness around the need to reduce carbon emissions and help fight climate change.”

The second major trend to emerge from the crisis was a shift towards digital technologies and automated systems, he said, which have been the “foundation of Schneider’s business for the last 20 years”.

Corporate Knight found that 70% of Schneider’s revenue comes from sustainable solutions and almost three-quarters of its investment is focused on green innovation. Schneider also performs strongly in racial and gender diversity and in resource productivity and safety, it said.

Schneider plans to double down on its own climate commitments between 2021 and 2025 by aiming to generate 80% “green revenues” and help its customers save or avoid 800 mega tonnes of carbon emissions.

Tricoire said environmental, social and corporate governance commitments “cannot just be a one-off, and we have reinforced ours every three years”.

“All of us – companies, governments, individuals – can contribute to make the world greener and more inclusive,” he said.

• This article was amended on 25 January 2021 to correct the spelling of the name Corporate Knights.

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