Roche tops the list of biopharma companies in Dow Jones Sustainability Index

Abbott Labs is tops in healthcare equipment

Each year, the Dow Jones organization, part of McGraw-Hill Financial, updates the indices it maintains on companies with a high measure on sustainability. These indices, in turn, become the underlying strategy of a number of investment funds and portfolios; the logic being that over the long term, companies oriented toward sustainability practices are a better investment.

In announcing the 2013 indices, Dow Jones identifies the top company in each of 24 industry groups. For “pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and life sciences,” the 2013 leader is Roche; for “health care equipment and services,” it is Abbott Labs. Relative ranking of other companies are expected to come out later this year when a Sustainability Yearbook is published.

These sustainability indices are neither a measure of companies with substantial business in environmental technologies, nor are they a measure purely of overall environmental performance. Rather, over the years, the company that Dow Jones works with, RobecoSAM (Zurich), have evolved measures of sustainability that include workforce stability, labor practices and social engagement, in addition to environmental performance and overall financial strength. Still, companies tout their sustainability ranking; United Health, the insurer and healthcare provider, issued a news release noting that it is included in the index for the 15th straight year.

Another widely reported ndex, the Pacific Sustainability Index from the Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont McKenna College (Claremont, CA), looked specifically at the biopharma industry in 2012. Its list, which starts with candidate firms in a compilation by Forbes magazine of top biopharma companies, has the Merck Group (Germany) as the top performer, followed (in order) by Amgen, Abbott, Roche and Johnson & Johnson. The Pacific Index is based on comprehensiveness of reporting of sustainability factors (including carbon footprint and renewable energy usage), not necessarily the level of performance among those factors.