The Top 10 Chicago Area CSR Reporters and Performers

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If I play the word association game and say the word “Chicago,” I doubt many people would think of “green” these days. Nevertheless, the hometown of President Obama is one of the greenest cities in the U.S. From its 7 million square feet of green roofs to being one of America’s most bike-friendly cities, Chicago has become one of America’s greenest cities (no.  8 on Corporate Knights’ 2012 list of America’s greenest cities).

I was wondering if all of this green activity in the windy city also indicates that companies in the area are increasingly involved in CSR activity.  Or in other words – is the Chicago Metropolitan Area (aka Chicagoland) a hub of CSR leaders?

Just like we did with the Bay Area, our investigation began by identifying the Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Chicagoland. We found 29 companies from various industries, including many well-known brands such as Boeing, McDonald’s, Sears, Kraft Foods, Abbott and United Continental.

Among the 29 Fortune 500 companies in the area, 10 companies published a CSR report (34 percent), eight of them in accordance with the GRI guidelines (28 percent). This is a little below the average for S&P500 companies in terms of reporting, but better in terms of compliance with GRI guidelines (48 percent and 21 percent respectively for S&P500 companies). When compared to Bay Area companies, Chicagoland’s are lagging both in reporting and in GRI-compliance (47 percent and 43 percent respectively in the Bay Area).

The conclusion is that Chicagoland seems to be lagging in CSR reporting in general, but the Chicagoland companies who report do a better job in preparing GRI-compliant reports compared to companies in other areas.

And what about CSR performance? Four companies in Chicagoland are listed in Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 2012 100 Best Corporate Citizens List. Since this is an election season, I decided to compare it with the portion of the electoral votes Illinois has (20 electors) in the Electoral College and found it’s very similar – 3.7 percent. So I guess you don’t have to be Nate Silver to conclude that Chicagoland gets an average grade in CSR performance.

Here are the full results of our look into CSR and CSR reporting performance of companies in the Chicago Metropolitan Area:

company Fortune 500 Rank City Revenue (in $ millions) CSR Report GRI Report GRI LevelCR Magazine 2012 Top 100
1Abbott Laboratories71Abbott Park, IL38,851yesyesundeclared20
2Allstate93Northbrook, IL32,654yesyesundeclared
3Anixter386Glenview, IL6,270no
4Aon235Chicago, IL11,287no
5Baxter195Deerfield, IL13,873yesyesB58
6Boeing39Chicago, IL68,735yesnon-GRI67
7CDW270Vernon Hills, IL9,602no
8CF Industries402Deerfield, IL6,098no
10Corn Products International390Westchester, IL6,219no
11Discover300Riverwoods, IL8,550yesno
12Dover304Downers Grove, IL8,502no
13Exelon145Chicago, IL18,924yesyesA
14Illinois Tool Works149Glenview, IL18,257no
15Kraft Foods50Northfield, IL50,365yesnon-GRI
16McDonald’s107Oak Brook, IL27,006yesyesnot applicable
17Motorola Mobility206Libertyville, IL13,064yesyesundeclared
18Motorola Solutions274Schaumburg, IL9,549no
19Navistar193Lisle, IL13,958no
20OfficeMax354Naperville, IL7,121no
21RR Donnelley249Chicago, IL10,611no
22Sara Lee220owners Grove, IL12,103yesyesB11
23Sears Holdings65Hoffman Estates, IL41,567no
24Telephone & Data Systems469Chicago, IL5,181no
25Tenneco350Lake Forest, IL7,205no
26United Continental76Chicago, IL37,110yesyesC
27United Stationers478Deerfield, IL5,006no
28W. W. Grainger318Lake Forest, IL8,078no
29Walgreen32Deerfield, IL72,184no

Combining the information on the companies’ CSR reporting and performance, the top 10 companies are (in an alphabetic order): Abbott, Allstate, Baxter, Boeing, Exelon, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, Motorola Mobility, Sara Lee and United Continental.

Here are five more titles we would like to give:

The best company: Sara Lee. I thought first it would be Abbott, since I know them better, but first place goes to the company that has the highest rank on the CR Magazine Top 100 list and therefore Sara Lee is number one on ours. Although Sara Lee didn’t make too many headlines on TriplePundit recently, this food and beverage company, which split earlier this year into two companies (Hillshire Brands and D.E Master Blenders 1753) seems to take sustainability seriously and to perform above average when it comes to CSR, as we can also see from its CSRHub and Climate Counts ratings.

The company that didn’t surprise me: Kraft Foods. Kraft should be a familiar name to our readers. The company shows leadership in areas like waste reduction  and recycling and also came up couple of months ago with an impressive sustainability program that includes ambitious goals for 2015. The company still has a lot of challenges ahead, but it definitely seems like it takes CSR seriously and sees it as an integral part of its business strategy.

The company that is on the list but maybe shouldn’t be there: United Continental. United Continental opposes the EU new standard requiring all airlines flying to and from EU airports to buy carbon permits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). I believe that a company rejecting climate change regulation is not truly responsible and hence can’t be considered a CSR leader.

The company that perhaps does not belong on such a list: McDonald’s. In fairness, McDonald’s has many CSR achievements to be proud of. Nevertheless, in some areas that are very material for the company, like sourcing beef sustainably, McDonald’s is only making its very first steps. The fact that McDonald’s is not listed on the CR Magazine top 100 companies may indicate that if it wasn’t located in Chicagoland, you wouldn’t see it on the local top 10 list, at least for now.

President Obama’s favorite company on the list: Boeing. Although I’m quite sure Obama would say all companies on the list are great American companies, I’ve got a feeling Boeing would be his favorite one. Not only because the company is a big exporter of American innovative products, but it is also on the forefront of developing fuel efficient planes and aviation biofuels. And did we mention that Air Force One was built by Boeing?

[Image credit: Frank Kehren, Flickr Creative Commons]

Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris and an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and the New School, teaching courses in green business, sustainable design and new product development. You can follow Raz on Twitter.

Raz Godelnik

Raz Godelnik is an Assistant Professor and the Co-Director of the MS in Strategic Design & Management program at Parsons School of Design in New York. Currently, his research projects focus on the impact of the sharing economy on traditional business, the sharing economy and cities’ resilience, the future of design thinking, and the integration of sustainability into Millennials’ lifestyles. Raz is the co-founder of two green startups – Hemper Jeans and Eco-Libris and holds an MBA from Tel Aviv University.

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