These nine chief executives of British firms are the best performing bosses in the world for shareholder returns and environmental, social and governance performance

Lynsey Barber and Chris Parmenter
Here's how the chief executives of UK firms performed in the world rankings

Nine chief executives of UK firms are the best in the world.

The UK is home to the second largest number of top-performing bosses along with France, and second only to the US, according to a new comprehensive ranking based on company performance.

WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell emerged as the fifth best chief in the world in Harvard Business Review’s (HBR) annual list, which takes into account factors such as total shareholder return and change in market capitalisation.

Aberdeen Asset Management’s Martin Gilbert, Next’s Simon Wolfson and Randgold Resources’ Mark Bristow are also ranked in the top 50 of 100 worldwide chiefs.

In addition to financial performance, HBR for the first time included other indicators of strong leadership in the areas of environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. Bosses who took the helm prior to 1995 were also included for the first time, meaning top performers Sorrell, Gilbert and Bristow make their first appearance in the list.

With the addition of ESG performance, weighted 20 per cent in the overall score, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos tumbled from first place in 2014 to 87th this year. Bezos was usurped by Lars Rebien Sorensen of pharma firm Novo Nordisk.

On the addition of the new metric, HBR said: "In an era of big data and greater transparency, consumers and investors increasingly want to understand a company’s culture and values. They want to analyse its social behaviour, not just its share price."

At WPP, Sorrell has overseen total shareholder returns of 1,426 per cent and a rise in market capitalisation of $39bn (£25.6bn) over his 29-year tenure. He was also given an ESG score of the 71 out of 100, based on research by Sustainalytics.

Here's how the chief executives of UK firms performed in the world rankings.

Full methodology

Analysing the top 100, HBR found a quarter of chief executives took an MBA. Company founders made up just under a fifth of chief executives in the list, while consumer goods, healthcare and financial services firms accounted for the largest number of bosses on the list when it comes to industry breakdown.

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