As the world economy braces for the potential default of Greece and the global recession some fear may follow, concerns about anything other than a steady job and roof over your head tend to fade away. All of those positive environmental vibes from five years ago about combating global warming and launching a new green economy seem to have faded away in the economic upheaval of the last half decade.
Now, there are a lot of Americans who would be perfectly happy with a job, any job, even if it means doing something that's distinctly or profoundly bad for the environment. So, here's a list of the five companies that are the worst for the environment.
1. Monsanto (MON)
How is it possible that a company that is designed to help people grow plants can be doing that much harm to the environment? Well, for starters Monsanto is the leading producer of glyphosate herbicides, primarily through its Roundup brand. Glyphosates have been linked to cancer and birth defects. There's also Monsanto's creation of genetically modified crops, a practice that is controversial among many, and the fact that as of 2001 the company was listed by the EPA as being "potentially responsible" for over 50 Superfund clean-up sites.
2. Archer-Daniels Midland (ADM)
Archer-Daniels is also a company primarily engaged in agriculture, so the moral of the story might be that we should all pay closer attention to where our food is coming from. Archer-Daniels is engaged in the procurement and processing of agricultural commodities, and in the process it can do some serious damage. Archer-Daniels has been subjected to a number of federal lawsuits over the years in regards to air pollution at its plants, and it's also a very active participant in lobbying for price supports and subsidies that can have a dramatic effect on the direction of American agriculture.
3. Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU)
Ah, finally, a coal company. Peabody Energy is actively engaged in coal mining. Very actively. It's the largest private sector coal company in the world, supplying the coal that produces 10 percent of electricity in America and 2 percent of electricity worldwide, selling some 246 million tons of coal in 2010. The environmental impact of putting all that coal out there, in and of itself, would probably be enough to land Peabody on this list, but it's also a mining company, which rarely means good things for the environment.
4. Ameren (AEE)
Ameren is a utility holding company that produces electricity through a variety of subsidiaries around the United States. Ameren's environmental impact derives primarily from the way it produces electricity, which is primarily through coal-fired plants. Ameren was also the company operating the Taum Sauk hydroelectric plan when it breached and sent a 20-foot wall of water down the Black River in Missouri on Dec. 14, 2005. So even their sustainable energy seems to be having a negative environmental impact. Go figure.
5. T. Rowe Price (TROW)
So, guess they don't have an office recycling program, huh? For those confused as to why a financial company makes this list, T. Rowe Price was ranked dead last by Newsweek as the least green company in the U.S. in an October study. The company had virtually a nonexistent environmental impact. While most executives don't take any pleasure in polluting (hopefully), the bottom line is what really matters in most cases. As such, the investment dollars provided by T. Rowe Price and other institutional investors can be crucial, and T. Rowe doesn't shy away from investing in companies that return the most possible for their shareholders regardless of environmental impact.
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