LONDON: Bayer, Nestlé and BMW are among the firms making the best attempts to tackle climate change, an area where European firms are outperforming US companies, a study has argued.

The Carbon Disclosure Project, a not-for-profit group, polled 379 of the world's 500 largest corporations by market value. It awarded Bayer, the German pharma giant, 100 points for its disclosure on sustainability matters and an "A" grade for its actual results.

Nestlé, the Swiss food manufacturer, exactly matched these ratings. BASF, a German conglomerate, logged 99 points, as did BMW, the carmaker from the same country, and Gas Natural Fenosa, the Spanish utilities provider.

Following next in the rankings were Nokia, the telecoms specialist, and Diageo, the premium spirits expert. Both operators generated scores of 98 points, and like all of the top ten – made up by Allianz, UBS and Panasonic – received "A" grades.

"Our focus is less on payback periods and more on targeting environmental investments to be 'value positive,'" Deirdre Mahlan, Diageo's CFO, said. "It is insufficient, and even irresponsible, to consider only short term payback when making investment decisions."

Turning to the US, Microsoft, the IT firm, and UPS, the courier and logistics company, led the charts on 99 points apiece, and each secured "B" grades for their schemes.

"We look at fuel conservation programmes as part of our economic picture," said Lynnette McIntire, director of global reputation management at UPS.

Some 81% of the worldwide panel agreed climate change posed "physical risks" to their business. Another 78% reported that this issue now formed part of their corporate strategies, up from 68% last year.

Elsewhere, a 48% share of the sample believed that climate change yielded opportunities for new products and services, although a modest 21% had set aside a dedicated budget for low-carbon R&D.

IBM, the services provider, is one organisation which has tried to drive new revenues through offering solutions in this field. It received 86 points, and a "B" grade, for its own eco-friendly efforts.

"We do it because it makes good business sense," said Wayne Balta, vice president, corporate environmental affairs and product safety, at IBM. As an example, IBM saved nearly $500m on energy bills from 2000–10.

For 68% of interviewees, climate change presented chances to tap new customer behaviours or improve their corporate reputation, up from 58% last year. An additional 53% also saw risks related to the adoption of new customer habits and perceptions of their firm.

Data sourced from Carbon Disclousure Project; additional content by Warc staff