BP is the world’s most accountable company, followed by Royal Dutch Shell, Vodafone, HSBC, and Carrefour—according to the 2005 Accountability Rating, a corporate accountability rating of Fortune global 100. The rating scores companies on how seriously their decisions consider social, environmental and other non-financial issues.

Points are awarded for stakeholder engagement, governance and business strategy. Other criteria include performance management, non-financial reporting and independent assurance.

According to AccountAbility CEO Simon Zadek, The Accountability Rating is a business rating rather than a moral one, and seeks to identify the smart rather than label the good or the bad. “The rating shows which companies recognize that implementing accountable management and addressing social and environmental issues today will build business value tomorrow,” Zadek says.

BP tops the list for the second year running with a score of 78 out of 100. However, according to Zadek, the figures are still disturbingly low for the world’s largest companies. “The gap between the leaders and laggards raises important questions about the latter’s ability to manage underlying risks and exploit emerging opportunities,” he says

The biggest gain was made by HSBC which soared 41 places to be fourth in the 2005 ranking. In the past two years HSBC has named a subcommittee of its board to oversee corporate responsibility and make it its number one strategic goal. This year, its decision to use the World Bank’s Equator Principles in deciding whether to lend to dam and forestry projects contributed to its success in the ranking, as did its use of the international AA1000 standard to assess its own governance structures.

Europe continues to lead the field, with European companies scoring an average of 40 and accounting for seven of the top ten. US corporations have an average score of 24 – an improvement over last year’s rating of 16, but lagging behind Asian competitors on an average of 28.

U.S. corporations generally score poorly on stakeholder engagement, non-financial reporting and third-party assurance. They are also far less likely than European counterparts to comply with internationally recognized labor, human rights and environmental standards such as the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles.