Yesterday Corporate Responsibility Magazine released its 13th annual “100 Best Corporate Citizens List” during a ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange. “The CRO” list is a diverse one, representing many sectors and a variety of companies from the Russell 1000.
“Top 100” or other rankings lists are always highly subjective, from college sports to “best places to work” to even the top colleges in the country. But Corporate Responsibility’s List is a solid one from which to compare and contrast, and a data set of 320 points can give a pretty clear idea of which companies are doing well and which ones could use some help.
The following are some highlights from this year’s list:
The number one company is . . . it is true that everyone remembers number one, and few recall numbers 2 or 3 or 4, unless you are a #12 seed that makes the NCAA Basketball Final Four. This year pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb takes top honors. A shared top ranking on corporate governance performance and a strong record on environment, employee relations and climate change dislodged Johnson Controls, last years #1. Johnson Controls is still in this year’s top 10 list, however, so the Milwaukee based manufacturing and technology company is still performing very well on the sustainability front.
Little movement at the top: IBM, Campbell Soup Company, Johnson Controls, Accenture and NIKE are still in the top 10. Credit strong leadership and consistent performance across the board for their strong showing.
One bad metric can sink your ranking. If Barbie had not been sourcing paper boxes from dubious sources, Mattel could have done better than its surprising number 12 ranking. Alas, on climate change issues Mattel listed at 215. Hormel was in the top 20, but again, a climate change slot far below 200 had its impact on where the company landed on CRO’s final tally. The carbon footprint of hog farming could not have helped Hormel too much in that regard.
Agree to disagree. Should a tobacco company, Altria, be eligible to pull a ranking of #15? What about a firm in the extractive industry, Freeport McMoran, rounding out the top 10? Whatever you may think about the list, the value of this best corporate citizens list is that it challenges our assumptions about what sustainability and corporate responsibility mean. The environment is important, but so is how a company treats its employees, where it stands on human rights and how transparent the company is with disclosing information important to stakeholders.
The differences are narrowing: Speaking of transparency, deviation from the mean score narrowed again this year. The difference from numbers one to 100 is narrowing. Companies are becoming far more open about what they disclose, and this trend is very promising to those who want companies to show sincerity about the work they are doing in communities, on climate and on governance.
Who fell out? The dreaded red cards this year were Allergan (which misbranded Botox at a cost of $375 million in fines) and Exxon-Mobil for contaminating groundwater in New York City. Falling a few notches in the ranking really is nothing to be concerned about. Falling out of the list is a little tougher to swallow.