Consumers really do care about a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) track record. According to a study conducted by the Reputation Institute, only 17 percent of consumers surveyed would consider referring a company that doesn’t deliver on CSR promises.
Interestingly, with all the focus on CSR, sharing economy values, and sustainable living this year, the number of companies that truly distinguished themselves in CSR fell from 12 in 2012 to five in 2013. Those five top spots are held (in order of ranking) by Microsoft, the Walt Disney Company, Google, BMW and Daimler.
The marks are based on three criteria: citizenship, governance and workplace. Walt Disney for example, garnered 49.6 percent of the vote as a good citizen that champions the environment through programs like its carbon offsetting goals.
BMW’s focus on transparency and its public commitment to uphold the rights and protection of whistleblowers no doubt reflected its high marks (48.8 percent) in good governance.
Google on the other hand, received a thumbs-up from 51.1 percent of those surveyed for its positive working environment. NY Times’s report on its “dizzying excursion through a labyrinth of play areas; cafes, coffee bars and open kitchens; sunny outdoor terraces with chaises; gourmet cafeterias that serve free breakfast, lunch and dinner …” is enough to make any committed work-from-home entrepreneur jealous.
Still, something should also be said for the myriad of companies that strove to create their own brand of CSR. There were those that made an about-face turn to help stop global warming. There were others that found new ways to increase sustainability and community support. And there were others that used their public notoriety to inspire change.
So allow us to add just a few companies to this list that made unusual contributions to CSR efforts. These aren’t necessarily ranked, but they do reflect many of the comments and thumbs-up we’ve gotten from you, our readers over the past year.
Ed Note: This post is Jan Lee’s entry into Masdar’s 2014 blogging contest for a shot at a trip to Abu Dhabi. If you’d like to enter, there’s still time. Just follow these instructions. The deadline is Jan 3nd!
“How can cities contribute to the advancement of sustainable development and address issues including water, energy and waste?”
Today’s most efficient communities are an example of partnership. They coalesce what is most desirable as a living environment with what works most efficiently for the whole. They find ways to integrate smart technology and affordable features into everyday living spaces. And they adapt to their environment, rather than attempting to adapt the environment to the resident’s personal space.
It’s been a good year for Volkswagen, particularly for its Chattanooga, TN plant. In September, the Environmental Protection Agency tapped the Chattanooga facility for its annual Green Power Leadership Award for Onsite Generation. The EPA’s annual award recognizes green power users across the country in a variety of sectors. Chattanooga, which is #15 on the EPA’s list of top 30 onsite generation plants, produces 12 percent of the energy it uses during peak periods from its solar park and 100 percent of the power it uses during non-peak periods.
Was it a case of crossed wires, or a Freudian slip? That’s the question at the heart of McDonald’s latest PR dilemma. Last week, the fast-food chain took down its employee resource website after it discovered that the information its page designers were using was actually telling employees it wasn’t healthy to eat McDonald’s food.
The McResource website and hotline, which the fast-food company has been running as a way to provide sage lifestyle advice to its employees, has come under fire recently for their less-than-cool words of counsel.
The European Union joined global ranks last week in pushing for a limited ban on the use of appliances that rely upon hydroflurocarbons (HFC), or “super greenhouse gases.” The draft legislation follows several years of contentious negotiations with industry lobby groups and opposition from several member countries.
HFCs were introduced in 1990s to replace chlorofluocarbons after it was determined that CFCs were contributing significantly to the destruction of the planet’s ozone layer. Since that time, scientists have determined that HFCs speed up the impact of greenhouse gases thousands of times faster than CFCs.
Without a doubt, 2013 was the year of the sharing economy. Even if you didn’t car share, bike share, haven’t invested in shared solar projects and haven’t yet had the opportunity to dine on gourmet meals through a community meal-sharing program, your life was probably transformed in one way or another by the rise of the sharing economy.
Perhaps you purchased something that was funded through crowd funding. Or maybe you had an appointment with someone at an office that shares space for entrepreneurs. Or maybe you were one of the many grateful visitors to New York, Los Angeles or Vancouver Canada that found a cozy home to stay in for a fraction of the cost of a motel. Individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy found kindness and accomodations thanks to the sharing economy.
With ceremonious flourish last week, Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law a bill that would require labeling on all products meant for human consumption that contain genetically modified ingredients (GMO). The legislation was passed by voters in June and actually received the governor’s formal endorsement at that time.
The Dec. 11 ceremonial signing, which took place at the front of raw foods restaurant Catch a Healthy Habit in Fairfield, CT, was meant to send a signal: Connecticut is willing to legislate change in this arena, but it couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do it alone.
In September, we invited solar experts to answer a question for us: How could firefighters safely shut off an array of solar panels on a roof ?
The question related to a devastating fire in which firefighters were forced to let a 300,000-square-foot refrigeration facility stocked full of a business’ deli meats and cheeses burn to the ground. The reason? There was no safety mechanism for shutting off the building’s 7,000 rooftop solar panels. First responders felt they would need to breach the roof to stop the fire, but were ordered by the fire chief to stand down because they could not turn off the panels.
As a result, the entire facility was destroyed.
In our opinion, the story highlighted a crucial question. So we reached out to readers (many of whom we learned, were solar professionals) to solve this confusion.
Finding a company that has a great corporate social responsibility reputation isn’t hard these days. Most businesses have caught on to the fact that the public likes companies that like doing good things for others. And studies show that we aren’t afraid to reward businesses who have great CSR track record.
But interestingly, it also isn’t hard to find news these days about companies whose sterling reputations have been broadsided by scandal. British Petroleum (BP), Hewlett Packard (HP), Enron and to a lesser degree, Safeway all boast a concern for CSR in their interaction with the public, but have all been subjected to scrutiny for events that seemed out of character with that image.
Espionage can be a hot topic in the news, as the National Security Agency and companies it allegedly partnered with for spying access continue to find out. Revelations by former CIA analyst Edward Snowden that the NSA had been cozying up with private businesses to gain intelligence access both here in the U.S. and abroad has made ‘business as usual’ a bit more difficult for the country’s premier security agency.
But it hasn’t been a picnic for companies accused of saddling up with the NSA, either. International profits for multinational companies like AT&T and IBM have suffered just as much as their rapport with many U.S. based customers. The result, say some business analysts, is a re-think on whether cooperating with the NSA is worth the public ire.
You know that cryptocurrency has made its mark when a consumer can drive a Tesla Model S off the lot after paying with newly-mined Bitcoin.
Last week, Lamborghini Newport Beach in Southern California sold a Tesla Model S to a consumer for 91.4 Bitcoins ( about $103,000). The transaction through the payment processor BitPay on Dec. 6, and the car is due to be delivered to a Florida address.
But the really notable part of this story is that it isn’t the largest Bitcoin transaction. In October, BitPay processed a single $1 million transaction for Butterfly Labs, a leader in Bitcoin mining hardware. According to Elizabeth Ploshay in Bitcoin Magazine, the transaction has pushed the Bitcoin economy over the $2 billion mark. It’s also helped to raise the value of the Bitcoin, which currently stands at about USD $871/1 Bitcoin.
Last month, after Typhoon Haiyan barreled through the Philippine Islands, communities scrambled to find ways to get help. Much of the communications infrastructure on the two hardest-hit islands was in shambles. Communities were cut off and residents had no way to connect with family members in other parts of the country or the world. The worse hit communities needed a way to organize relief efforts, but without either a landline or a mobile network, keeping aid agencies, families and other resources informed was next to impossible.
Within days, the mobile communications company Vodafone had dispatched what looked like a collection of suitcases to the hardest hit sections of the islands. Vodafone’s mobile network, broken into four containers that were compact and light enough to be carried in the back of an emergency vehicle and could be installed almost anywhere, became the devastated community’s mobile lifeline. Families could text messages out; relief agencies could connect with their rescue teams. Food shipments could be coordinated, and the arduous and painful process of rebuilding could be done with help and consultation from the outside.
Marks & Spencer’s support for sustainable programs and humanitarian needs often go together. Take its popular Shwopping initiative for example, which started last year and is still going strong in the UK. Donated clothing not only gets a second life through Oxfam (throughout the world, and through a variety of different uses), but help keep the older items out of the landfill, thus decreasing the impact on the environment.
The company’s latest eco-commitment has a similar humanitarian bent. The company recently announced that it plans to join the United Nations carbon offset pilot project and will be funding the cost of low-carbon stoves to Bangladesh. The stoves, which will be constructed by Bangladeshi businesses will go to families as an alternative, low-carbon cooking source that doesn’t rely upon local wood or coal sources.
As we reported a few weeks ago, a growing concern for outdoor gear manufacturers has been the ethical sourcing of goose down. High-quality products like below-zero-rated weather jackets and sleeping bags often contain down and finding ethical sources has been a challenge, as our story on Patagonia’s supply chain demonstrated.
But Patagonia hasn’t been the only company troubled by this problem. The North Face, which has also made its international reputation on high-quality outdoor gear, says it recognized that it was time for a change in the supply chain when it found that most, if not all down they purchased came from geese raised and killed for foie gras. The methods used for “fattening” the goose (the goose’s liver, to be specific) is now considered by many to be inhumane.
In an effort to nullify that concern, says The North Face, it has now “created a Responsible Down Standard that addresses animal welfare issues and traceability in the down supply chain.”
If the province of Ontario has its way, 2014 will be the last year that coal will be burned in its plants. Ever.
Last week, the premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, announced the closure of three of the province’s coal-burning facilities: the Lambton and Atikokan, which have already ceased operation and the Nanticoke Generating Station, which is expected to follow. The Nanticoke is the largest of its kind in North America.
The closures are all part of a systematic conversion to biomass energy, and what Ontario terms as its “commitment to end climate change.” A significant push for that effort will come from the introduction of the Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act, which will essentially outlaw the use of coal for power generation.