5 MN Cos. Make Dow Jones Sustainability Index

Ecolab and Target are among the 41 companies that were added to the index this year, while UnitedHealth Group, 3M, and Medtronic are making repeat appearances.

Five Minnesota-based companies have been selected for this year’s Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI), which tracks the performance of the world’s largest companies that have been recognized as leaders in environmental stewardship, social responsibility, economic performance, and other factors.

The index is produced by Sustainable Asset Management Group (SAM), a Switzerland-based investment firm, and S&P Dow Jones Indices. Each year, SAM asks the world’s 2,500 largest public companies, based on “free-float market capitalization,” to report on their sustainability performance. (Unlike typical market capitalization—stock price multiplied by all outstanding shares—free-float includes only shares that are readily available for trading in the market and excludes those held by company insiders, the government, and other “locked-in” shares.)

SAM assesses each company’s corporate governance, risk management, branding, climate change mitigation, supply chain standards, labor practices, and other metrics to select companies for the index.

The DJSI World Index, which measures the performance of the world’s sustainability leaders, features 340 companies this year. The recent changes to the index take effect on September 24. (To view the performance of the index, click here.)

Ecolab, Inc.—a St. Paul-based provider of water, hygiene, and energy technologies—and Minneapolis-based retail giant Target Corporation are among 41 companies to be added to the index this year.

Target’s most recent corporate responsibility report indicated that employees donated more than 475,000 volunteer hours in 2011. The company also outlined plans to make the packaging of at least 50 of its owned-brand products more sustainable by the end of its 2016 fiscal year and to offer only sustainable seafood by the end of its 2015 fiscal year, among other goals.

Ecolab’s 2011 sustainability report includes many products and initiatives aimed providing the world with clean water, safe food, and abundant energy. Internally, the company cut its global energy use by 8.4 percent between 2007 and 2011 while also cutting water consumption and waste. The company also donates cleaning and sanitizing products during disasters, and its employees donated more than $1 million through its annual charity campaign last year.

“We are pleased to see this recognition of our continuing efforts to make the world cleaner, safer, and healthier while protecting people and vital resources,” Ecolab Chairman and CEO Douglas Baker, Jr., said in a statement. (To learn more about Baker, who was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame this year, click here.)

Maplewood-based 3M Company and Fridley-based Medtronic, Inc., made reappearances on the DJSI World Index this year.

3M’s 2012 sustainability report said that the company not only sells a large portfolio of sustainable products, but it also focuses on reducing its own environmental impact. 3M set a goal of reducing volatile air emissions by 15 percent and solid waste by 10 percent by 2015, while improving energy efficiency by 25 percent.

Medtronic’s 2012 Corporate Citizenship Report outlines its sustainability initiatives, including its effort to introduce live-saving therapies to patients in emerging companies.

Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, Inc., meanwhile, was named to the index for the 14th consecutive year. Its 2011 Business Social Responsibility Report indicates that the company’s sustainability efforts range from financial donations and volunteer hours to staffing health programs and providing disaster relief.

“Our 99,000 employees are dedicated to fostering a culture of innovation to help us better serve our customers and the physicians and other care providers we work with every day to help make the health system work better for everyone,” Executive Vice President Jeannine Rivet said in a statement.

In addition, S&P Dow Jones Indices recently announced that UnitedHealth Group will replace Kraft Foods Group, Inc., on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, effective September 24. The move was prompted by Kraft’s planned spin-off of its North American grocery business, and Dow said that UnitedHealth’s inclusion on the index—a widely used barometer of the U.S. stock market—“reflects the growing importance of health care spending in the U.S. economy.”

Ecolab, Target, UnitedHealth Group, 3M, and Medtronic are all among Minnesota’s 15 largest public companies based on revenue.

The DJSI World Index provides asset managers with objective benchmarks to manage portfolios of investments in sustainable companies. The complete list of companies included in the index is not available online, according to a Dow Jones representative who provided Twin Cities Business with the list of Minnesota-based companies included in this year’s index. But additional information, including the 10 largest additions and deletions to this year’s index, can be accessed here.