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25 Companies That Practice Good Corporate Citizenship And Still Make Lots Of Money

In the spectrum between rich, evil corporations and corporations scraping by while adhering to a perfect set of values, a new study has found that there is a set of 25 corporate giants that are managing to succeed while at least making a concerted effort at not destroying anything. And consumers are taking note.

If you’re not a good corporate citizen, you’re doing it wrong. Because as we recently explained, consumers are no longer fooled by false corporate social responsibility—and they’re starting to care. The inaugural Global Corporate Reputation Index, launched by Burson-Marsteller and partners this week, reveals the top 25 companies with the best corporate reputation—a mashup of marketplace performance and corporate citizenship.

The report, based on 40,000 consumer interviews about 6,000 companies in six countries, finds that most companies underinvest in corporate citizenship, which is a measure of "the less tangible aspects of a company’s reputation." Unsurprisingly, the banking and oil and gas industries perform the worst in the citizenship category, while the tech industry leads the pack. The auto industry is up at the top, too, revealing that the big auto companies have rebounded in the public consciousness from bankruptcy.

There are, according to the study, 25 companies that have the magic mix of corporate citizenship and superior marketplace performance: Adidas, Apple, Avon, Bosch, Canon, Coca-Cola, Danone, Electrolux, Ford, Google, Heinz, Honda, Lego, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Nestle, Nike, Nokia, Philips, Puma, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Visa, and Volkswagen.

Some of these choices are fairly obvious. Google has plowed ahead with risky clean energy investments, Coca-Cola has made a name for itself in the CSR space with its PlantBottle, and Ford has put more of its faith in hybrids and electric vehicles than many major competitors.

But McDonald’s? The report says, "The top performer on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2011, McDonald’s is also investing in sustainability with greener packaging, LED lighting, and annual sustainable land management evaluations; in addition, it is severing ties with Sparboe Egg Farms for inhumane animal treatment. Through innovative offerings such as gourmet coffee at reasonable prices … McDonald’s is able to differentiate itself from other fast food giants in its sector." So in its sector, at least, McDonald’s is a good corporate citizen.

None of the companies listed are perfect corporate citizens. Google is currently battling concerns about user privacy, for example, and Apple’s messy supply chain is slowly being exposed. In spite of the innovative PlantBottle, Coca-Cola still sells sugary, unhealthy drinks.

But as the Burson-Marsteller report shows, consumers don’t ask for perfection. They just want to see some effort. And they’ll reward it.

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  • Elisa_vancheri

    When was this article written ? i m using this article for an assignment for school , and i realy need the exact date of publishing . + where did you get the information from ? because when searching on the website of Burson-Marsteller and looking after their press releases i don't find these informations ...Please help me .
    Thank you .

  • kevinmoss

    Complex interactions tend to involve individual activities some of which,  in isolation may have a negative impact.   The question is whether the whole has a net positive impact and if they do,  how do you ensure the individual negatives are appropriately compensated for the greater good.    The challenge in the corporate context is to bring all these factors together and assess the net impact of a company's activities - economic, societal and the environmental.

  • Jeff Rangel

    "None of the companies are perfect corporate citizens"...totally agree with that distinction, but in general how does one value one aspect (supply chain for example) over another ( environment)?

  • RW

    Apple has more than just supply chain issues - not too long ago, they threw out their philanthropic budget. It would appear that are a lot of well marketed firms in here, as a few have remarked.

  • Jeff45

    This article should be entitled which companies have the best marketing campaigns.

  • CagefreeScience

    It's hard to disagree with what you guys say here that the results of this study rise questions about what they really define as a good corporate citizenship. Would you consider a fast food company producing junk food, which is at least partially responsible for obesity epidemic not only in US, a good citizenship? Sounds like a joke...

  • Shays

    Clearly the metrics picked are different that I would expect.  When Russia is number 1 in performance, and China is number 1 in citizenship, I am skeptical that this study is measuring issues that most of us would define under those headings.
    If those are the rankings given, I don't believe any conclusions reached will hold much significance.

  • Leslie Caccamese

    I really appreciate Andrew's comment. I agree that when we speak about corporate citizenship, accounting for how employees are treated should be a piece of that equation as well. In several countries around the world, many of these companies also appear on Best Companies to Work For lists by Great Place to Work, the researchers behind the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For, such as McDonald's, Microsoft, and Google. It would be wonderful to see more of these companies turn the focus inwards, as well as outwards, improving treatment of employees, demonstrating similar treatment throughout the supply chain, and contemplating and acting on their overall contribution to the environment and its citizens.  

  • jayhoch

    Clearly some anti-corporate bias here when she says:  "perhaps the idea of corporations and perfect citizenship are antithetical?"  Maybe we should consider that ...perhaps the idea of PEOPLE and perfect citizenship are antithetical?

    Of course corporations are not perfect citizens.  Of course people are not perfect citizens. Am I to assume that Ariel is a perfect citizen?

  • Berkleyadrio

    Whoa whoa whoa, how can this article not address apple's supply chain concerns?

  • Andrew Siegel

    Interesting article.  However there is one point of 'corporate citizenship' that is often overlooked - how well do they treat their employees?  I.e. I heard that Walmart had cut their 'footprint' by using renewable resources - however a large # of their employees still survive on a barely liveable paycheck and have no healthcare coverage.  Before we look at their global impact, we also need to consider their local footprint.

  • Rolando Peralta

    Quite interesting stats, Ariel, thank you for sharing. I would like to know or compare performance/corporate citizenship/public perception
    Most companies track their "community efforts" like a huge success, and they are, but most of the time, people around those companies are not quite agree with benefits.