3. Samsung (1938)
Back in 2009, Samsung announced that it wanted to be one of the world’s largest solar manufacturers by 2015. Some were skeptical. Green energy had been hot for a few years and the move looked opportunistic. Why would a company that can sell high-end TVs build factories to make solar panels, complex products that get sold for commodity prices?
It turns out Samsung is serious. The South Korean conglomerate plans to invest $20.6 billion and employ 45,000 to become a major player in solar, power plants, green electronics, LED lights and other markets. Samsung, sources have told us, actually bought more LED equipment in 2010 than most of the rest of the industry combined. Samsung Electronics alone has 111 subsidiaries and produces everything from components to household appliances.
Recently, it also lured Steve Fludder, who headed up ecomagination for General Electric, to run its energy efforts.
While many conglomerates often become saddled by bureaucratic inertia, internal politics and conservative product planning, Samsung has shown itself to be nimble and aggressive. It topped Sony in consumer electronics and moved from being a second-tier manufacturer to a premier brand.
The company is also adept at marketing -- it has already hired a phalanx of blogging moms to tout its appliances in South Korea.