By Dennis Schaal
This list—CRO’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens 2008—matters.
If you think for a minute that it doesn’t, then get on the phone or sit upright at your computer to listen to or read some of the phone calls and e-mails CRO magazine received from irate companies that found themselves MIA from the list or lower in the rankings than they would have liked.
Somewhere in a corporate boardroom or in the compliance officer’s suite, rest assured that an Excel wizard is analyzing the category ranks and studying the algorithm, trying to figure out what Intel (No. 1) did right in Environment or Climate Change, or why a competitor ascended or nosedived this year in the ordering.
And, although it may be about bragging rights for some firms, for many corporations their position on 100 Best may impact operations. It also translates into recognition for some of their policies and practices, a well-earned “attaboy” from an unbiased arbiter.
Dave Stangis, the Director of Corporate Responsibility for Intel, which has been on the list since Business Ethics magazine developed it nine years ago, characterizes Intel’s top-of-the heap ranking as “a really strong attribution.”
He adds that 100 Best over the years has had “a huge impact internally” at the company and executives view the category scores and rankings as a
Business Ethics magazine published 100 Best for the first seven years, and CRO published 100 Best in 2007, and now presents 100 Best 2008.
In the nine years that 100 Best has been tabulated, just three companies—Intel, Cisco (No. 14) and Starbucks (No. 35)—have appeared on the list every year. See the full list now (pdf).
In 2008, CRO—in partnership with IW Financial, a Portland, Maine, research and consulting firm that did much of the heavy lifting—tweaked the methodology to emphasize the corporate responsibility efforts of large, impactful corporations in eight categories: Climate Change, Employee Relations, Environment, Financial, Governance, Human Rights, Lobbying and Philanthropy. In so doing, we added, renamed, combined or dropped other categories, and gave Climate Change and other issues related to Environment the greatest weight because of their acute importance. For information about the methodology, see “Transparency, Policy, Performance Weighed Heavily in the Rankings.”
As an aside, you won’t find CRO or IW Financial on the 100 Best list itself. Neither company was under consideration because the companies were not in the Russell 1000 index, our starting universe for the 100 Best evaluations. But I believe both companies deserve a footnote mention because despite taking a few elbows by companies looking to curry favor, we stood by our principles and let the 100 Best category data speak for themselves, watching the proverbial chips fall where they may concerning companies’ rankings.
As author Kurt Vonnegut famously wrote in “Slaughterhouse Five,” when things got messy, “so it goes.”
As you will see, the 100 Best rankings, which were compiled without interviewing companies under consideration, were driven by the numbers. Period.
CRO’s new single-minded focus in 100 Best 2008 on large-cap, U.S.-headquartered public companies meant that 23 companies on the 100 Best 2007 list, including Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (No. 1 in 2007), weren’t under consideration for the 2008 rankings. Another three companies in 100 Best 2007 weren’t in the mix in 2008 because they merged with other companies or were acquired.
And, eight companies that would have secured places in 100 Best 2008 were excluded this year because of alleged transgressions that ranged from suppression of information about product risks to accounting scandals. For details, see “In the Penalty Box.”
Even with those eight companies temporarily pushed aside, a spot on 100 Best shouldn’t be viewed as an automatic sainthood nomination. Among the largest companies in the United States, many of the corporations that made the list face complex regulatory issues, some cope with the consequences today of yesterday’s sub-par practices, and many have very diverse businesses scattered across dozens of countries, further complicating the equation. Instead, these data-driven rankings should be seen as a way to gauge how the major players in U.S. business stack up against one another relative to their corporate responsibility programs in the real world.
Even 100 Best 2008 leader Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., faces antitrust regulatory probes in Korea, Europe and the U.S., as well as class-action lawsuits in the U.S., related to an Advanced Micro Devices’ (AMD) lawsuit alleging that Intel violated the Sherman Act.
Intel readily addresses the issue, and is contesting the allegations. Stangis says Intel recently filed answers to questions on the issue from the European Commission, for instance, and he argues that the “push” for much of the scrutiny comes from AMD, a competitor.
And, Gap (No. 61) faced a corporate responsibility crisis in October when a published report in the U.K. alleged that the apparel retailer was using child labor in India. Gap says it quickly launched an investigation and cancelled the work order because an unauthorized subcontractor was using child labor to manufacture a GapKids product.
Gap says in 2006 it shut operations in 23 factories for violations of its Code of Vendor Conduct.
Overall, 21 corporations that were listed in 100 Best 2007 found themselves among the 100 Best in 2008, as well. They range from IBM (No. 21) and Pepsico (No. 22) to Motorola (No. 51) and Avon Products (No. 98).
It may surprise some that the utilities industry, frequently under fire for its massive carbon footprint and other environmental missteps, was the most heavily represented sector in 100 Best 2008, with 19 corporations, from PG&E (No. 10) to El Paso (No. 87), among the listees.
Companies in these industries have more potential problems than those in supposedly “clean” industries so chemical, oil and utilities companies may be more sophisticated in addressing environmental management and human rights concerns than the financial sector, Bateman adds.
Incidentally, nine banks, brokerages or financial companies have spots on 100 Best 2008. These rankings and the companies Financial tallies were not impacted by the companies’ huge write-downs in the fourth quarter related to subprime mortgage-related debt. Most of the data for 100 Best 2008 were collected through Aug. 31, prior to the write-downs.
Other companies, like Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold (No. 52), with its copper and gold reserves, and media conglomerate Walt Disney Co. (No. 50), were the sole representatives of their industries on the list.
Intel showed ample corporate responsibility soul, and sits solely atop 100 Best 2008 overall.
Intel ranked in the top 100 in five of the eight categories, scoring its best mark in Environment (which measures environmental disclosures, policies and performance) and in the top 200 in another category, Philanthropy.
IW Financial notes that “Intel believes that global climate change is a serious economic, social and environmental challenge that warrants an equally serious societal and policy response.”
“Intel helped establish a goal for PFCs (perfluorocompounds) that the entire industry could support,” Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini told CRO.“ It came together before Kyoto and was the first worldwide, industry-wide goal to address climate change. We view our environmental strategies as integral to the way we do business. We strive to lead by example, and to be trusted stakeholders to governments worldwide.”
Otellini says Intel views sustainability “through a business lens” and such an approach can lead to a competitive advantage. “For example, we have a dedicated capital funding program for energy conservation projects,” Otellini adds. “Since 2001, we have spent more than $20 million and achieved savings of more than $42 million and more than 500 million kilowatt hours.”
As Intel’s Corporate Responsibility Director, Stangis notes that his role is almost like an internal consultant on corporate responsibility issues.
He has found, too, that Intel’s credibility on sustainability issues is far-reaching. For example, Otellini is a member of the Copenhagen Climate Council, which hopes to push for a new global treaty on climate change.
And when Stangis met with the CEO and senior staff of Woolworths, a supermarket chain in Australia, a two-hour discussion ensued about Intel’s corporate responsibility initiatives.
“It is a boardroom conversation,” Stangis says, referring to corporate responsibility. “It hasn’t been at this level before.”
Eaton (No. 2) , a diversified industrial manufacturer operating in more than 140 countries in industries ranging from aviation and military weapons to machinery and passenger cars, ranked in the top 100 in four categories and in the top 200 in two others.
The company scored its best marks in Employee Relations and Climate Change.
Alexander Cutler, the Cleveland, Ohio, company’s President, CEO and Chairman, says Eaton is a “different” kind of company because of the importance it places on values, including establishing a global ethics framework, respect for the individual and a holistic approach “to doing business right.”
Eaton never asks employees to compromise their personal ethics, and supports internal help and counseling phone lines, Cutler says.
He adds that about 97 percent of the company’s approximately 63,000 employees complete the annual employee survey.
On the employee front, too, Eaton participates in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Programs.
Regarding its 22nd rank in Climate Change, Eaton’s goal is to reduce GHG emissions 18 percent (adjusted for production) by 2012. And it has several employee education programs to emphasize the company’s curbing of water usage and waste.
Eaton scored 80th in Environment and was among the first diversified industrial companies to earn global ISO 14001 certification for its environmental management systems.
Deere & Co. (No. 4), the farm equipment and lawn mower manufacturer headquartered in Moline, Ill., ranked in the top 100 in Climate Change and Human Rights and in the top 200 in Philanthropy, Environment and Financial.
The company ranked 80th in Human Rights. Robert Lane, Chairman and CEO of Deere, says of the company’s human rights stance that it has consistent employee guidelines and a worldwide supplier code of conduct despite operating in many countries with varied cultures.
“We are often noted for the clean and safe working conditions in non-U.S. factories that we provide our employees here in the U.S.,” Lane says. “For instance, I have personally had the opportunity to observe the same low emissions paint process in our China factory as we use in the U.S. factories. We maintain the same high standards and our employees embrace this commitment.”
Deere earned its best category mark, 47th, in Climate Change. Lane notes that Deere in 2007 invested almost $500 million in wind energy to assist rural economies in electricity production.
For example, Deere’s PowerTech Plus diesel engines, which are certified Tier 3 and Stage III-A by the EPA and European Union (EU), respectively, “boast best-in-class fuel economy as well as increased performance and power density compared with earlier engines,” IW Financial states.
Lane believes that Deere’s position in 100 Best is “rewarding” and means recognition “for being a strong corporate citizen.”
He notes that 100 Best may assist employee retention and recruitment efforts. “We know from our own experience that current employees and future employees want to work for a good corporate citizen,” Lane says. “This is an important trend that is showing even more strength with new employees.”
Meanwhile, Motorola (No. 51), the communications company headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., has the distinction of garnering the top ranking, among 1000 companies considered, in Climate Change.
A founding member of the Chicago Climate Exchange in 2003, Motorola in 2007 became the first member to include all of its worldwide manufacturing sites that aren’t currently covered under the Kyoto Protocol and the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme in the company’s GHG-reduction commitment, says Maryann Clifford, Motorola’s Ethics & Compliance Officer.
“Motorola has worked for many years to reduce its GHG emissions and mitigate contributions to global climate change,” Clifford says. “This is not just the right thing to do. It also helps us reduce costs, improve operational efficiency and meet the expectations of our stakeholders.”
As part of that effort, in 2007 Motorola completed a transition from managing and auditing environmental, health and safety compliance on a site-specific basis to a common system that takes in all of the company’s manufacturing facilities around the world, Clifford says.
“Reporting has helped us to drive continuous improvement,” Clifford says, referring to annual environmental reports.
She adds: “As the saying goes, what gets measured, gets managed.”
A similar thing could be said about CRO’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens 2008: What gets measured, managed and disclosed, gets ranked.
Agree or disagree with the companies that made our list, or have any other thoughts to share? Let us know by emailing us at email@example.com or commenting below. We welcome your feedback.
Find out more about the methodology behind the list...
CORRECTION: After publishing the CRO's 100 Best Corporate Citizens 2008, we discovered a math error. We incorrectly stated that the weighting of the Lobbying category used to generate the rankings was 2 percent. The actual weighting used was 1.3 percent. We regret the error.
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