World’s most innovative companies are thinking sustainably: top 50

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 2 minutes
11 February 2014

LONDON: A new ranking which lists the world’s most innovative companies finds many are leading the way in creating low carbon products, including Nike, Google and Philips.

The annual list by The Fast Company ranks companies on their innovation efforts by analyzing their ability to ‘remake an industry, change consumer habits and challenge economic assumptions.’

The number 1 most innovative company in the world is Google, applauded for its long list of ‘life-changing’ projects and milestones, including Google Glass and autonomous vehicles.

But Google also invests heavily in green innovations, including several wind farms around America, and last month’s high-profile acquisition of smart meter company Nest for US$3.2 billion. 

Low carbon innovators

And Google isn't alone in its efforts. Sustainability is one of 12 rising innovation trends that were identified as part of the research on the leading companies.

Authors spotlight Brazilian petrochemical giant Braskem (number 41 in the list) for using sugarcane rather than oil to make plastics, Levi Strauss (30) for producing over 10% of its clothes with recycled materials, and XL Hybrids (35) for its work in converting FedEx and Coca-Cola’s truck fleets to regenerative-braking hybrids.

Nike, a member of The Climate Group, scored 7th place. The now famously low-carbon innovator is credited for its Making app, an index that lets companies measure the environmental impact of materials, as well as its Launch program, which convenes sector leaders to innovate. “Sustainability can’t be just a single product line,” Hannah Jones, VP of sustainable business and innovation, Nike told The Fast Company. “It has to be across everything we do.”

Other leading green innovators include Tesla Motors at number 20 for its bold electric vehicle roll-out and infrastructure growth plans, and Beyond Meat--Twitter co-founder Evan Williams’ next company--which landed 43rd position for its low carbon vegetarian ‘meat’. Bloomberg Philanthropies sits just behind at Google at number 2 for its ability to ‘do good methodically’, as well as its Mayors Challenge which aims to find solutions that improve urban life.

Big impact

Another ‘innovation trend’ spotted by The Fast Company is simply ‘dreaming big’. Illustrating this trend, authors highlight the importance of Philips’ decades of research into developing LED lighting based on scientists’ projection that LEDs could cut global electricity use by 10% and save US$250 billion.

At number 50, The Climate Group member Philips is celebrated for not only changing a 120-year-old technology--the traditional lightbulb--but for the company’s work towards an innovation with the potential to reduce US electricity use by 50%, as well as its third-quarter revenue increase of 267% compared to 2012 for its LED and energy efficiency innovations.

In a company blog, Jim Andrew, Chief Strategy and Innovations Officer, Philips, wrote: "...for us, innovation isn't just about creating exciting objects that catch the imagination of our customers for one heady moment. Instead, it's about perfecting products, services and business models that help our customers to take care of people and save lives, to live healthier and enjoy themselves, and to be part of a more sustainable world.

"Last year, we launched our new brand identity with a promise that gets to the very heart of what drives everyone at Philips: 'We deliver innovation that matters to you.' Being listed in the Fast Company top 50 Most Innovative Companies is great recognition of that message and of our commitment to improving the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2025."

Smart technology

The overall ranking was also broken down into industry specific top tens. Partner of The Climate Group The Weather Company sits at no.6 for big data, thanks to its work in analyzing unique climate data to better predict its users’ habits, and Intel is listed at no.8 in the ‘internet of things’ category, for its tiny, smart superpower chips.

Jim Walker, International Programmes and Strategy Director, The Climate Group, said: “It’s encouraging to see so many low carbon and green innovations singled out in Fast Company’s list this year. We see this as part of an essential trend in corporate leadership on climate change, where efforts to find new commercial business models, products and services are going hand-in-hand with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from operations.

"The list shows that big companies like Philips and Nike can make big changes relatively rapidly, and we encourage other major corporates to place innovation at the heart of their climate strategies.”

See the full top 50

Related news:

Nike sprints ahead in the heated innovation race

Philips dominating global LED lighting market with $5 bulb

Google buys smart meter innovators Nest for $3.2 billion

By Clare Saxon

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