New index grades Canadian firms for clean technology, business savvy

Thursday, October 25, 2007

An organization that tracks Canadian corporate social responsibility has set up a new index of what it thinks are the country's top 10 public firms in the clean technology sector.

Corporate Knights, which publishes a magazine focused on business ethics, set up the index in conjunction with Cleantech Indices LLC, a U.S. outfit that tracks environmentally friendly companies south of the border.

To get chosen for the list a company had to have a clear focus on creating new technologies to help use resources more efficiently, Corporate Knights editor Toby Heaps said. But the firms also had to meet financial criteria, including earnings potential and reasonable stock performance.

For that reason, some high profile Canadian firms such as Ballard Power Systems Inc., which has struggled financially and whose stock has slumped, did not make the cut.

While many of the members of the index are no surprise - alternative energy firms Boralex Inc. and Canadian Hydro Developers Inc., along with solar power equipment makers Carmanah Technologies Corp. and Xantrex Technology Inc. - others are more puzzling.

WFI Inc., an Indiana company that makes geothermal heat pumps, but trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is on the list, as is organic food producer SunOpta Inc. Mr. Heaps acknowledged that WFI was a "bit of a stretch," but he said it was included because its stock trades in Canada.

SunOpta was included because its cellulose ethanol division is likely to generate a significant portion of earnings within three years, he said.

An analysis of the performance of the 10-company index over the past year showed that on an unweighted basis it sharply outperformed the S&P/TSX small- cap index, although it lagged the S&P/TSX composite index.

"We're not pretending these are completely safe investments," Mr. Heaps said, but the idea is to shine a light on healthy firms "whose core business is focused on `finding` solutions to environmental problems."

Corporate Knights has also created another index - the "Next Ten Cleantech" - a list of private firms expected to be leaders in the future. That list includes Iogen Corp. of Ottawa for a new technology for producing ethanol from cellulose, and smaller firms such as Triton Logging Inc., which makes equipment to recover logs from flooded forests.


The CK Cleantech 10 - All trade on the TSX:

  • Boralex - wind, hydro and biomass
  • Canadian Hydro Developers - wind, hydro and biomass
  • Carmanah Technologies - solar power equipment
  • Dynetek Industries - fuel storage systems
  • Hydrogenics - hydrogen fuel cells
  • RuggedComnet - work equipment for harsh environments
  • SunOpta - organic food; cellulose ethanol
  • Westport - Innovations engine conversions to natural gas
  • WFI Inc. - geothermal heat pumps
  • Xantrex Technologies - solar power conversion equipment