Inside the Companies Ranked by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index

Last week SAM and Dow Jones Indexes announced the 2011 results of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes Annual Review.

The Dow Jones Sustainability Index is one of the best known sustainability rankings of public companies. Because it is intended to be used to drive investment decisions, it tends to get attention from corporate boards, CEOs and CFOs along with sustainability professionals and other stakeholders.

According to the announcement, 41 companies will be added to, and 23 firms will be deleted from the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. Changes will be made to regional indices as well.

It is a coup to be included in these indexes, one that included companies tend to trumpet at every possibility. And it is a blow not to make the cut. (One exec I spoke with a while back said that he’d probably lose his job if his company’s standing on the DJSI or the Carbon Disclosure Project slipped.)

What is it like inside the companies that were assessed for the index? I swapped e-mails with sustainability executives at a few of them to find out.

One executive, whose company that was deleted from the DSJI North America, laments the fact that the granularity of the data required to qualify was greater than they could supply. He claims his company would have qualified for DJSI World if just their environmental performance had could have been considered alone. But alas, social and governance factors are also part of the ranking.

The execs at companies who were added or who achieved privileged recognition as “super sector leaders” professed delight and even surprise. “It was a happy surprise around here,” wrote one. “It was a great win for us,” wrote another.

At one industrial manufacturing company, “A message was sent to all employees by our CEO stressing that the DJSI is an honor and a great indicator of our success but it is only one way in which we are measured against our peers.”

The smartest take I heard was from one of the smartest execs I know in a sustainability role. She said they have used DJSI as a benchmark, and have used the DJSI questionnaire to help them drive some reporting and analysis initiatives internally. But they were pleased to get the external recognition of those efforts in the form of being added to the DJSI North America.

Outside ratings can help drive internal change. It’s wise to turn that to advantage where possible.

Do you work for company that made the cut–or didn’t? What’s been your experience?

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