It is a first-ever list, ranking the world’s ‘greenest’ large companies, and it claims to highlight out-performance against their counterparts – by three to one. The Clean200, a list of publicly listed businesses with a market capitalization of at least $1 billion that are generating 10 percent of their revenues from clean sources, has just been published. By geography China, with 66 entries, and the United States with 40 dominate the rankings.

Japan comes next, with 20 companies in the rankings. In Europe, Germany offers eight, followed by India with seven and Canada with five. Investors interested in an international spread as well as potential performance might be interested in looking at this ranking for clues.

The Carbon Clean 200 rankings are part of a report by As You Sow, a non-profit organization promoting environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy and the market research firm Corporate Knights. They do not provide investment advice.

But the Clean200 is intended as the clean energy inverse of the Carbon Underground 200TM. By contrast, the CarbonUnderground200TM ranks the largest publicly listed companies by the carbon intensity of their coal, oil, and gas reserves.

So who comes out at the top in this latest Clean200 ranking? Toyota Motor (NYSE:TM) leads, with Siemens (FRA:SIE) close behind. Look out for Vestas (CPH:VWS), Panasonic (TYO:6752) and – covered recently here on Entelligent – Dong Energy (CPH:DENERG). Also at the top of the list are Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), Gamesa (BME:GAM), First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), Samsung (KRX:005930), Philips Lighting (NYSE:PHG) and Schneider Electric (EPA:SU). 

“Over the past five years, and growing dramatically leading up to and post-Paris COP 21, a movement of institutional and individual investors representing more than $3.4 trillion in assets under management have divested a portion of their fossil fuel investments and committed to divesting the balance in the next five years. The corollary of divesting fossil fuels is re-investing in the clean energy future,” say the report’s authors. 

A great deal of effort has been devoted to identifying the fossil fuel companies “that most threaten our fragile climate,” they say. But this report asks a different set of questions: which companies currently are profiting from making the decision to participate in the clean transition and what is the best way to spot them?

To answer these questions, the authors picked a database (Bloomberg Energy New Finance or BNEF), set a market cap on the companies, excluded oil and gas, companies that manufacture weapons, utilities with less than 50 percent renewables, companies that profited from deforestation, and companies that engage in child/forced labor. It is the top 200, ranked by estimated clean revenue, in the “Clean200”. 

“We compared the Clean200 to the Carbon Underground 200, the list of the largest fossil fuel companies that the Divest-Invest movement and many fossil free mutual funds use as a screen. We also compared the Clean200 to the S&P 1200 global benchmark and what we saw is telling,” say Toby Heaps, CEO Corporate Knights and Andrew Behar, CEO, As You Sow, who are the report’s co-authors. 

“First, over one-third of the Clean200 companies are Chinese, which speaks to a quiet green energy revolution afoot in what is now the world’s largest economy. Another interesting finding is that 26 countries are represented.” 

“Our Clean200 list also raised questions about BNEF’s methodology; how do they count hybrid cars that burn gas, putting Toyota at #1?” ask the authors. 

Companies listed in the Clean200 rankings achieved a stimulated annualized return of 21.82 percent over the past decade. According to Corporate Knights, this is around three times the 7.84 percent return achieved by companies in their Carbon Underground list over the same period. 

“The Clean200 nearly tripled the performance of its fossil fuel reserve-heavy counterpart over the past 10 years, showing that clean energy companies are providing concrete and measurable rewards to investors,” says Mr. Heaps.

Dina Medland is an independent writer, editor and commentator with a strong focus on issues around corporate governance, ethics, the workings of the boardroom and sustainable business. She is on the team of contributors to @ForbesEurope and is an ex-Financial Times staff member who has been a regular contributor in recent years. Further details about her background and a portfolio of work – including her commercially sponsored blog ‘Board Talk’ are available on her website