The firm, known for it's focus on sustainable and responsible investments, singled out Toyota Motor Corporation, Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen AG for praise in its latest recognition for automakers with exceptional environmental, social and governance (ESG) practice. In evaluating such issues as environmental sustainability and workplace practices, the Calvert Sustainability Research Department found that, despite the recent economic turmoil, the American auto industry has emerged with a fundamentally different and more positive approach to sustainability.
American automakers, especially, are more focused than ever on making cleaner, more efficient vehicles, and proving less resistant to more aggressive fuel economy and emissions standards.
The car companies, of course, have little choice but to comply with toughening fuel economy regulations (there is a requirement for all U.S. fleets to average 54.5 mpg by 2025), but they are also more compliant because they realize consumers, especially younger ones, are holding fuel economy and sustainability on a higher plane of values they are looking for in brands they buy.
"Global automakers are making major strides in the right direction on several key issues," Calvert Sustainability Analyst Rebecca Henson said. "This is an encouraging development that reflects the emergence of more thoughtful industry leaders who recognize that ESG considerations are now essential."
What was the criteria for choosing these three automakers? Calvert took into consideration seven environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria: workplace practices; human rights; Indigenous Peoples' rights; governance and ethics; product quality and safety; community relations; and environment.
Among the things the study looked at: fuel economy of a company's whole showroom; development of electric vehicles, hybrids and clean diesel; supporting efforts to mine minerals and precious metals required for auto production in sustainable ways and in countries that have good human rights records; workplace safety and working conditions.
Ford was singled out for exemplary human rights/workplace practices and was ranked number one in the world for all industries in Human Rights on Corporate Responsibility Officer Magazine's 2010 and 2011 "Best 100 Corporate Citizens List." Volkswagen was praised for the best product safety practices. Toyota has the top environmental track record. "Throughout the global recession, we never lost sight of the environmental and social goals that are key elements of our business strategy," said Dave Berdish, sustainability manager at Ford.
A copy of "Calvert Investments Sustainability Performance Review – Automotive Industry" is available online at www.calvert.com/auto.