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Measuring Environmental Performance: Is Newsweek’s Green Ranking the Solution?

Accounting for the Environment: More Talk and Little Progress

ISBN: 978-1-78190-303-2

Publication date: 16 October 2014


In 2009, Newsweek published a report in which they ranked the 500 largest US companies and the 100 largest global companies based on its environmental performance measures ( This ranking is referred to as Newsweek’s Green Ranking. Included in this ranking is information about water and air pollution, solid waste disposal, toxic wastes, carbon emissions, and enforcement actions. The question we are addressing in this study is how well it measures pollution performance? The question is relevant to environmental accounting/reporting since it is part of a dilemma yet to be answered: Aggregated environmental indices/scores are easy for average information users to percept, while specific information may not be preserved when it is aggregated into the overall score(s).

Specifically, we examine whether Newsweek’s Green Ranking is correlated with pollution measures based on Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) in order to determine how valid or reliable Newsweek’s Green Ranking is – in other words, how much Newsweek’s Green Ranking can explain the pollution by the toxic releases. We find that there is no significant correlation between Newsweek’s Green Ranking and the TRI measures except for the firms in the utilities industry. Concluding that on one measure, which we consider a very important one, there is no justification for the overall Green Ranking Score presented by Newsweek. However, in Newsweek’s three-part score the element that is termed the Environmental Impact Score captures pollution performance measured based on TRI. The contrast between the overall ranking and performance ranking indicates that a composite index that incorporates hard performance and soft measures can dilute the information carried by performance data.



Cong, Y., Freedman, M. and Park, J.D. (2014), "Measuring Environmental Performance: Is Newsweek’s Green Ranking the Solution?", Accounting for the Environment: More Talk and Little Progress (Advances in Environmental Accounting & Management, Vol. 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 49-79.



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