Taiwanese rail company tops Asian firms in ranking of world’s greenest corporates

Clean energy transport firms emerge as some of the region's most sustainable companies. Four of them are on the Corporate Knights' Global 100 index for the first time. The number of Asia Pacific firms on the index rose to 19 this year.

Taiwan High Speed Rail
Taiwan High Speed Rail is the high-speed railway of Taiwan consisting of one line that runs  along the west coast, from the capital Taipei to the southern city of Kaohsiung. Image: Taiwan High Speed Rail

Efficient transport does not have to run on fossil fuels, as shown by a high speed railway company in Taiwan that emerged as Asia Pacific’s most sustainable company.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp led 19 Asia Pacific firms in the ranking of 100 of the world’s greenest corporates in Canada-based media and research firm Corporate Knights’ Global 100 Index 2023.

Together with bike design company Giant Manufacturing Co Ltd of Taiwan and China’s electric transport firms Nio Co Ltd and Yadea, it featured for the first time on the list.

This year’s ranking shows clean energy transport firms in Asia emerging as clear winners, as they opt to reduce their dependence on climate-changing fossil fuels, amid global disruptions in natural gas and oil supply caused by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. 

United States-based steel manufacturer and scrap metal recycling company Schnitzer Steel surfaced on top of the global list. The steel industry is considered hard to abate, and is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, due to large inputs of coal used in its production. 

The Global 100, published on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, assessed 6,720 public companies with revenue of more than US$1 billion against 25 performance indicators. These included revenue and investment derived from sustainable sources, taxes paid, how much value is created with fewer carbon-based fossil resources, racial and gender diversity.

 

Despite coming up top as one of Asia’s most sustainable corporations, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp, scored poorly for racial diversity. The 16-year-old firm has an all-Taiwanese board, and almost 80 per cent of board members are male. However, its revenue to its direct emissions ratio is better than 81 per cent of its peers. 

Meanwhile, China’s Xinyi Solar Holdings, which made it to second position among all the Asia-Pacific companies on the list, climbs 30 notches from last year. Corporate Knights noted that sale of its solar glass products had raised its sustainability credentials. It is followed by Australia-based metal and electronics recycler Sims Ltd, which has invested in having technology like bioenergy and emissions reduction to enhance the quality of the recycled metals it sells to customers.

Hong Kong-based Vitasoy reached the 27th spot, a vast improvement from its previous  45th position. Its main product offering is plant-based. However, the firm’s chief executive officer currently earns 58 times more than the regular employee, which led to it scoring low on the CEO-average worker pay ratio.

Singapore’s City Developments Limited slipped 23 places this year. The real estate firm, however, emerges ahead of its main competitor CapitaLand, as it had directed 76 per cent of its investments in green buildings, a proportion higher than CapitaLand’s 43 per cent. 

Ralph Torrie, research director of Corporate Knights said that this year’s ranking indicates how rising oil prices have stimulated growth in renewables, smart buildings, electric vehicles and other climate solutions, including circular economy measures.

 “Global 100 companies are providing the products and services that are needed for the sustainability transition and that will form the basis of the emerging 21st-century economy,” said Torrie. “They have outperformed the market through these last few tumultuous years.”

Western firms still dominate charts

The number of Asia Pacific companies that made it to the index rose from to 19 from 15 last year, but the list continues to be composed of Western companies. Nearly half (39) are from Europe, and 30 are from the United States and Canada. 

Schnitzer Steel cinched the top spot this year by moving up 15 places from 2022. It earned all of its revenue from, and directed all of its investments towards sustainable solutions like acquiring, processing and recycling millions of tonnes of scrap metal each year.

Second on the ranking was last year’s top sustainable firm Vestas Wind Systems, a Danish renewable energy company. Its competitor, Danish wind giant Ørsted, which topped the ranking in 2020, fell to 13th place as it was ordered by the government to postpone the shutdown of three of its power station units that used oil and coal as fuel in the face of Europe’s energy crisis.

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