The businesses in the Tel Aviv 100 Index of the Israeli Stock Exchange were deemed only 35 percent transparent in their socio-environmental policies for 2011, a corporate social responsibility and sustainability reporting firm announced on Sunday.

The firm, Ramat Gan-based Beyond Business Ltd., conducted its third such annual report this year, scrutinizing company websites to determine how much information was made public regarding sustainability. While the results have slightly improved since the first year, the study initiators were far from happy with the companies’ achievements – as the average score in 2010 was 33%, and in 2009 was 31%, according to a statement.

Meanwhile, only 10% of the companies analyzed reached a transparency level of over 50% – which while twice the number of semitransparent companies in 2009 – represents no change since 2010.

“Responsible business practices demand transparency. You cannot have one without the other,” said Elaine Cohen, who is joint CEO of Beyond Business with Liad Ortar. “We hope that our focus in publishing the Transparency Index will assist companies in becoming more open about their sustainability efforts.”

The leading company – for the second year in a row – was Bank Hapoalim, earning a score of 99%, with Bank Leumi following at 95%, Strauss Group at 88%, Makhteshim Agan Group at 78%, Partner Communications at 74% and Discount Bank at 71%.

Of the remaining top 10, Cellcom took the lead at 61%, followed by Teva Pharmaceuticals at 60%, ICL Group at 54% and Gazit Globe at 52%.

Companies that are new to the upper echelon group are Makhteshim, Teva, ICL and Gazit Globe, according to Beyond Business, which also reported three companies as leaving the top-10 this year: Alon Holdings Blue Square (11th place), Elbit Systems (12th place) and Ness Technologies (13th place).

The full results of the index will be analyzed in detail at the fifth annual Conference for Sustainability Reporting, on May 17 in Herzliya.

“There were no real surprises for us because we live and breathe this market,” Cohen told The Jerusalem Post, but she also stressed excitement about the new firms that climbed to the top. “It’s really encouraging to see that new companies are starting to get on the radar in terms of sustainability.”

The leadership of Beyond Business also noted a correlation between the companies that scored the highest in the Transparency Index and those who received a “platinum” ranking in another evaluation – the 2010 Maala Index of Commitment to Corporate Responsibility Principles. Of the 13 that received such platinum rankings, only one company did not fall among the top 12 groups on the Transparency Index, which collectively achieved 62% transparency.

Shared among the 10 leading companies were published corporate sustainability reports from 2009 or 2010, that were readily available on their websites. But Cohen explained that Beyond Business’s examination looks only at the transparency – the presence of information and policies for public view – rather than whether said policies are making positive contributions toward the environment.

“We’re not specifically looking at particular standards of performance – what we’re looking at is how companies reflect the performance in a public or professional way,” Cohen told the Post.

“We don’t look at the actual data,” she added. “Even if they did a rubbish job at managing environmental [sustainability], if they did a good job at presenting their data they get extra points.”

In other words, the index looks at how the companies present data to the public about their waste, water consumption and carbon emissions – but not the actual amount of waste produced, water consumed or carbon emitted.

However, Cohen noted, those companies that take the time to produce properly detailed reports tend to have more environmentally practices.

“Transparency is a catalyst for performance,” Cohen said. “Once a company goes public with performance data and targets how to improve, then there is a very significant driver and motivation to do better next time.”

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