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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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