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Leadership
Business Leaders with Heart:
New Top 100 Includes Compassionate Innovators Large and Small

A new publication called Salt, motivated by the hope that businesses will play a key role in shaping a better world, has released its first Top 100 Compassionate Leaders List.

"We want to shine a spotlight on businesses with a heart; those pioneers who are using their corporate power not only to generate profits, but to create a better world," said Salt publisher Stephen Vasconcellos-Sharpe.

The list considered sustainability, innovation, compassion and impact — and mostly features names you’ve come to expect on such a list. Individuals were evaluated based on their demonstrated leadership in terms of renewable energy, resource conservation, agriculture, and social and economic sustainability. Additional criteria included whether they had pioneered ideas within their industry, created a company that transcends the standard business paradigm, and how many lives they have changed.

The list’s top five “vanguard ethical leaders” are:

  1. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. Polman was selected in part due to his goal to double Unilever’s sales to €80 billion a year and simultaneously halve its products’ environmental footprint, as well as his leadership in the implementation of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Unilever was also recently named one of just 24 Industry Group Leaders in the 2015 Dow Jones Sustainability Indices.
  2. Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, which includes private equity firm Virgin Green Fund and philanthropic arm Virgin Unite, and Carbon War Room, a non-profit that rates ship efficiency. Branson is also a member of “The B Team” and OceanElders, in active pursuit of better business action.
  3. Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and pioneer of microcredit.
  4. David Katz, founder of Plastic Bank. Plastic Bank pays collectors an above market rate for waste plastic, and companies can purchase this ethically sourced “social plastic” for use in their recycled plastic manufacturing.
  5. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Musk has impressively changed several industries, from advances in online payment with PayPal, to electric vehicles from Tesla Motors (and related intellectual property), and solar energy storage with Tesla Energy.

There are 22 women in the list, the most famous of whom are likely Arianna Huffington (#22) and Oprah Winfrey (#60). Jennifer Holmgren is the top female in the list, at number 13 (she beat Bill Gates, who holds spot number 15). LanzaTech, of which Holmgren is CEO, produces low-carbon fuel from the industrial waste of steel mills, oil refineries and chemical manufacturers. Its first full-scale commercial operation is expected by the end of 2015 and the company is set to power Virgin Atlantic’s airplanes with biofuels in the next two years. The company recently won the 2015 SB Innovation Open and the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

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