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You’ve Probably Never Heard of the Best Company in America: Cummins Inc. (CMI)

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Recently, the bigwigs of music and movies have been carefully identifying and selecting outstanding performances for recognition. Here at The Motley Fool, we decided that America’s best public companies deserve a little recognition of their own.

Our team combed through more than 1,700 companies and examined how well they served four groups of stakeholders: investors, customers, employees, and the world at large. The result was our list of the 25 best companies in America.

Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI)Um, who?
The company that came away with the top spot isn’t exactly a household name, but chances are that this independent engine manufacturer has contributed to your quality of life in some way or another. Since 1919, Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI) has been a leader in the design and manufacture of world-class, high-performance engines.

Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI)’ engines are renowned for their reliability, fuel efficiency, and low emissions, and can be found in long-haul trucks, buses, light-duty vehicles, and heavy equipment for construction, agriculture, and mining. Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI) tops our list not only because its superior products delight their customers, thereby supporting good jobs for employees and great returns for investors, but also because Cummins Inc. (NYSE:CMI) is a purpose-driven company whose work contributes to a greener, safer, more productive world.

The case for Cummins
It’s easy to be sustainable in an industry like software or up-scale retail, when your business isn’t very environmentally intensive in the first place. But as a manufacturer, especially an engine maker, one might expect that Cummins would have to use lots of resources and create lots of pollution in order to stay competitive. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Cummins has aggressively cut its own greenhouse gas emissions, beating its own goals by reducing emissions 28% (from 2005 levels) in 2010. This achievement allowed the company to win the EPA’s inaugural Climate Leadership Awards. Now Cummins has set an ambitious goal of reducing emissions 40% by 2015.

For its own products, Cummins views tighter fuel efficiency and emissions regulations not as obstacles, but as opportunities to showcase the company’s market-leading technology in making the cleanest, most efficient engines. Cummins has a big presence in the natural gas engine market through its joint venture with Westport Innovations Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:WPRT) . As a fuel source, natural gas is not only cheaper than petroleum, but dramatically cleaner, helping truckers save money on fuel and contributing fewer particulate pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.

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