Every year since 2001 Fast Company magazine publishes its list of The Fast Company 50, the most innovative companies working in technology, transporation, energy, health, marketing and other categories.
Without being restrained to purely tech or purely green companies, the Fast Company 50 has always covered a lot of ground, although when it does highlight green companies they more often than not fall in the renewable energy space.
The magazine has just posted its 2009 Fast 50, and to some extent it's the same story: among the green companies profiled are renewable energy companies that run the gamut of four of the primary sources of renewable energy: Vestas (wind), First Solar (solar), Pelamis Wave Power (tidal), and Raser Technologies (geothermal).
But what struck me when reading through this year's list was noting just how many of the companies were cited in whole or in part for their green efforts: nearly one-third of the firms -- 16 out of 50 -- have green business either as their raison d'etre or as one of the reasons they made the list this year.
In addition to the aforementioned cleantech companies (and others in the same space including Q-Cells and NextEra), companies as diverse as Nike, Wal-Mart, Apple, General Electric and IDEO all made the list for their green efforts.
Even some of the companies I didn't include on the green subset of the Fast 50 are firms whose green projects we've covered recently, especially on GreenerComputing: Google made the list based on its innovations, but not mentioning its many green innovations (especially its deep-green data centers); Cisco also showed up as a result of its repeated ability to dodge fallout from economic downturns, but its EnergyWise energy efficiency project went unmentioned; Intel earned praise for its fast and efficient chips, but nowhere were its many other green achievements noted.
I suppose this list is heartening to me for two reasons: first, it's always encouraging to see big companies lauded for environmental improvements -- even Chevron, far from the worst but certainly not the greenest oil company, is a Fast 50 company for its Chevron Energy Solutions energy-efficiency unit. But it's also a great reminder to see just how many companies in so many broadly divergent industries are making concerted efforts to improve their footprints and help their customers do the same.
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