Once upon a time, a company's "green" efforts were often esoteric and token bets conducted primarily to burnish a reputation as a corporate citizen while making little actual difference to the world, and often actually harming the bottom line.
But a new Newsweek ranking of the greenest big companies in America shows that economic benefits and ecological ones are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the green rankings might well provide a key indicator of which companies are the most innovative and forward-thinking, the ones that are, for example, getting ahead of a potential federally mandated cap-and-trade system for reducing carbon emissions. And as global pressure increases for more effective environmental stewardship, established green policies will provide a competitive advantage. As an added bonus, it feels better to invest in companies that are trying to limit the trash they dump into the world.
In the same issue of the news magazine, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote of countries' green positioning in the run-up to the U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen, but he also could have been talking about corporations when he said, "The economies that embrace the green revolution earliest will reap the greatest rewards."
In short, environmental sustainability is smart business. Take a look at some of the winners.
Even lower-ranked companies, and those not exactly known for their commitment to addressing environmental concerns, are starting to get in the green act. ExxonMobil
It seems unlikely to me that the company responsible for -- and long indifferent to -- the ecological disaster of the Valdez oil spill would be seeking such green solutions if they weren't tied directly to a different kind of green.
Are all green companies great investments? Of course not. But if you like investing in great companies that are forward-thinking, innovative, and maybe even outstanding corporate citizens, Motley Fool Stock Advisor can help. Since inception in 2002, advisors Tom and David Gardner's recommendations have returned 49% versus 0% for the S&P's 500. A no-commitment free trial gives you full access to all of their top recommendations right now. Simply click here.
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You'll have to excuse Roger Friedman's concern for the environment. Before he joined the Fool, he spent two years hugging pandas as online managing editor of World Wildlife Fund. He owns none of the companies mentioned, but he appreciates their green efforts. Adobe and Staples are Stock Advisor recommendations. Intel is an Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.