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Jan Lee headshot

Great CSR Leadership Examples for 2014

Words by Jan Lee

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.

Patagonia –  The company’s new Common Threads Partnership, which allows customers to trade in their favorite Patagonia products for a 50 percent discount supports not only the customer, but those in need throughout the world. It also ensures that our favorite clothing won’t just go into a landfill.

IBM – IBM’s CSR efforts are continuing initiatives in the field of community leadership and community involvement. Its Corporate Service Corps and Smarter Cities Challenge speak to the core of what CSR is all about: bettering our communities.

Starbucks – Starbucks has sustained its own share of criticism over the years,  yet continues to demonstrate its concern for those issues that define it as a good community steward. The announcement by its CEO Howard Shultz that he supported an hourly wage increase took some moxie. So did his refusal to buy into pre-ObamaCare panic. Its sustainable palm-oil commitment and various post-consumer recycling programs go along with its do-more and complain-less attitude.

Lenovo – OK, the hat tip should probable go to Lenovo’s CEO, Yuang Yuanqing for his decision to donate $3 million of his bonus to Lenovo’s hourly employees, but a successful leader reflects the values of a company, just as much as the other way around. His action probably didn’t transform the lives of his workers, but it did exemplify the fact that a leader always has a personal role in the respect a company earns from its customers.

Disney logo: Walt Disney Company

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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