LIST: Companies doing the most to address climate change

Take a moment to crack a frosty Coors Light. It's all right: You're supporting the environment.

Same goes with booking a flight on Southwest or buying a new pair of Nike kicks. These companies are working hard to address climate change, according to a new assessment of the world's greenest brands.

The list of 136 companies was compiled by enviro group Climate Counts, which performs this annual report with the financial help of organic yogurt slinger Stonyfield Farm. The idea is to help eco-conscious consumers decide where to funnel their dollars, as well as give industry heads an idea of where they stand among the competition.

What's new in the 2012 scorecard? Hope, to put it simply. Climate Counts notes that nearly 64 percent of companies it surveyed improved their climate scores since last year. That's not to suggest that the earth's atmosphere is starting to cool down because of their efforts, but it is a nice-looking start of a trend. If you're curious about the rating criteria the nonprofit group uses, it boils down to this:

Climate Counts use a 0-to-100 point scale and 22 criteria to determine if companies have:

* MEASURED their climate "footprint"
* REDUCED their impact on global warming
* SUPPORTED (or suggest intent to block) progressive climate legislation
* Publicly DISCLOSED their climate actions clearly and comprehensively

So where do your chosen brands rank?

The highest-scoring industries studied by Climate Counts are the airlines (Southwest in particular), the apparel industry (Nike received 85 points) and beer, aka Molson Coors. Unilever, the maker of Vaseline, Dove and Lipton teas, came out on top with a plan to cut its environmental footprint by half while using only sustainable agricultural materials by 2020. Lowest perfomers are the manufacturers of child's toys and equipment, who often fabricate packaging from plant pulp gathered by illegal loggers in southern Asia. Also low-scoring are furniture makers (especially, nooo!, Tempur-Pedic) and, hmm, Amazon, with only 11 points.

Interestingly, Climate Counts noted a link between the size of companies and how hard they press for climate-change mitigation. Says the group:

In terms of size, there appears to be a relatively strong correlation between a company’s gross revenue and their climate score performance with a few exceptions. McDonald’s for instance, with $24 billion in 2010 gross revenue, scored a starting 24 points, while Amazon, a $34 billion company scored a stuck 11 points. In contrast, Herman Miller, a home and office furniture company with $1.3 billion in 2010 gross revenue, scored a striding 63 points, and Starbucks with $10.7 billion achieved a striding 70 points.

The biggest company scored in terms of market capitalization is Apple, valued at $351 billion. Although Apple scored a striding 60 points this year, it continues to lag nearly 20% behind the industry average for Electronics and 32% behind the top scoring company overall. This is due in part to the lack of company-wide goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the absence of comprehensive reporting.

You can browse through the rankings by sector here, or view the entire report in PDF format here.