A recent study called “Sustainability leadership report: Measuring perception vs. reality,” set out to discover if the companies that people thought were most sustainable really were, and which companies are in fact the most sustainable.

The report, according to the article “In sustainability, perception isn’t always equal to reality” by Heather Clancy, found that “pharmaceutical companies as consistent standouts in terms of both perceived and actual sustainability performance.” In total, there were 175 different environmental, social and governance related units used to rate the companies on the list. The key aspects that were taken into consideration were: waste, energy, water, product responsibility, community, diversity and opportunity, board functions and structure, and vision and strategy.

The research group looked at 1,200 total companies and then split them up into four groups. The first group was the challengers. Two particular companies noted were Citi and UBS because “they have legitimate claims to leadership, but don’t get enough credit for their strategy.” The next group was the leaders group, which was compiled of companies with high actual and perceived sustainability. Some of those companies were Walt Disney, ABB, Abbott Labs, IBM, BMW, Nokia, BMW and IBM and Hewlett-Packard leading in information-technology. The third group consisted of Laggards (business that have a low commitment to sustainability) such as 7-Eleven, Amazon, American Airlines, Avon, ConocoPhillips, Japan Airlines, McDonald’s, Research in Motion, and Xerox. And the last group consisted of Promoters: Firms that manage to get more credit for sustainability than they actually deserve. The businesses in this category were Apple, Google, Honda, Visa and Yahoo.