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CR Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens “Way Off Base”

| Thursday March 25th, 2010 | 2 Comments

A senior corporate responsibility journalist has called Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s (formerly Corporate Responsibility Officer) 100 Best Corporate Citizens list “way off base” in a blog post published Tuesday.

Marc Gunther, who writes for Fortune and Greenbiz.com on CSR and environmental subjects said the inclusion on the list of oil companies like ExxonMobil (no. 51) and Hess (no. 10) and exclusion of the likes of Google and Whole Foods, seems bizarre.

As Gunther points out, coal-burning utility Southern Co. (no. 71) led the fight against the administration’s climate legislation, and Newmont Mining Co. (no. 16) operates mines in Nevada that have been a source of mercury poisoning.

If You’re Gonna Be Bad, Be Bad in Public

The contradiction seems to boil down to this: while anti-censorship crusader and green tech promoter Google does no evil (to paraphrase their mission statement) they aren’t always so transparent in doing so.

ExxonMobil and many other big multinationals, on the other hand, have been much more active in making publicly available data on their corporate behavior, good or bad — and the 100 Best list is “completely based on publicly available information.”

From Gunther’s post:

Essentially, the list takes a mechanistic approach that rewards structure and transparency — enacting policies, reporting and measuring data and publishing all of that on a website — at the expense of substance.

Like U.S. News List, For Corporations

Gunther reported many CSR officers told him companies are well aware of how the list works, and how to push their company up in the rankings.

“We’ve had long discussions inside our company about the CRO,” a GE insider tells me. And, just as colleges try to game the U.S. News list, companies that understand the CRO list do their best to hit the right data points. Campbell Soup Co. moved from the 400s to No. 12 this year because Dave Stangis, the firm’s vice president of corporate responsibility, made sure the company did all it could to improve, he told me.

Gunther floats other explanations for who did and didn’t get on the list, including the possibility that CR Magazine is biased towards the large corporations that fill out its affiliated association of corporate responsibility officers.

The skewed nature of the list, such as it is, may instead serve as a reminder for those seeking to change the way corporate America does business: honesty is just a first step on the road to true responsibility.


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  • http://twitter.com/Nudger Nick D.

    We agree that most annual, top-down rankings (and the CRO Best Corporate Citizens list particular) are difficult to understand in light of the commentary and stories we read every day about how the likes of Google, GE, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft and others affect our world. That's why we took a very different approach to measuring company reputation by using influential stories and commentary on how companies treat their customers, employees, communities, the environment and society in general as the source data for our rankings and trends. And by focusing on the most talked about companies on the Web, we can collect enough data in each area to generate not just yearly rankings, but more real-time trends.

    Take Google, for example. They rank 15th overall and 8th for the environment on Vanno. But their social responsibility rankings have historically been poor (outside the top 100) for quite a while due to well-publicized privacy and intellectual property concerns. But that is trending upward because of the more principled human rights stance they have been taking relative to China.

    If you want a more nuanced, real time view into the non-financial aspects of company reputation – particularly for those companies that get the most online buzz, check out Vanno ( http://www.vanno.com/ ) and the Vanno blog ( http://blog.vanno.com/ ).

  • http://twitter.com/Nudger Nick D.

    We agree that most annual, top-down rankings (and the CRO Best Corporate Citizens list particular) are difficult to understand in light of the commentary and stories we read every day about how the likes of Google, GE, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft and others affect our world. That's why we took a very different approach to measuring company reputation by using influential stories and commentary on how companies treat their customers, employees, communities, the environment and society in general as the source data for our rankings and trends. And by focusing on the most talked about companies on the Web, we can collect enough data in each area to generate not just yearly rankings, but more real-time trends.

    Take Google, for example. They rank 15th overall and 8th for the environment on Vanno. But their social responsibility rankings have historically been poor (outside the top 100) for quite a while due to well-publicized privacy and intellectual property concerns. But that is trending upward because of the more principled human rights stance they have been taking relative to China.

    If you want a more nuanced, real time view into the non-financial aspects of company reputation – particularly for those companies that get the most online buzz, check out Vanno ( http://www.vanno.com/ ) and the Vanno blog ( http://blog.vanno.com/ ).

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