Citing a push from institutional investors toward 'responsible' investing, Calvert and The Institute for Responsible Investment released this afternoon an inaugural ranking of public home builders based on their environmental and sustainable practices.

While the study stated that none of the 13 public builders included in the survey had fully embraced sustainable design and construction, KB Home placed at the head of the class. (Scroll to the bottom of the article to see the full rankings.)

In a conference call, Stu Dalheim, director of shareholder advocacy for Calvert, said while KB was the clear leader in the group, "they aren't far enough ahead that the bottom four [builders on the list] can't catch up."

Los Angeles-based KB scored the highest across four categories--energy use, building materials use, water use, and land use--as measured by its policies, programs, and performance in those areas. The study's authors made note of the company's internal environmental task force, sustainable sourcing program for wood and other building materials, myEarth design studio strategy, and decision to only provide Energy Star-qualified appliances in its homes beginning in 2008.

Moreover, the study also applauded management's decision to publish its first sustainability report in 2008. To date, details have been hazy, but the report stated that the company has hired a consulting team to help prepare the report, a first of its kind for public home builders.

Dalheim said many institutional investors, including Calvert, which manages more than $15 billion in assets, are beginning to look to reduce the carbon footprint of their portfolios. Consequently, they are pushing board of directors and management teams toward sustainability reporting.

As proof of this trend, Dalheim and co-author David Wood, director of the Institute for Responsible Investment at Boston College, mentioned several investor networks, including Ceres, that are organized around forwarding sustainable business practices. Moreover, Dalheim and Wood noted that many of these networks have some muscle behind their initiatives; for example, the Carbon Disclosure Project is backed by more than 200 institutional investors representing more than $40 trillion in assets.

The Calvert 'green' rankings follow:

1. KB Home

2. D.R. Horton

3. Pulte Homes

4. Centex Corp.

5. Lennar Corp.

6. The Ryland Group

7. Beazer Homes USA

8. Meritage Corp.

9. Toll Brothers

10. Hovnanian Enterprises

11. M.D.C. Holdings

12. Standard Pacific Homes

13. NVR