CEO’s Letter: Are There Only 100?

clark

For the 18th year, Corporate Responsibility Magazine is publishing the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List. In my Jewish faith, 18 is a mystical number. The letters used to represent the numbers one and eight also spell the word “life.” In some respects, as I reflect on the importance of measuring corporate responsibility, the list does promote life. Life in our communities, life for our planet, fairness for investors, and respect and well-being for employees and neighbors are all part of the outcomes from responsible corporate behavior.

I am often asked what the significance of the ranking is. We are the only ranking or rating of CR behavior that is not dependent on self-reported data. We get clarifications and allow companies to review their data files, but we do not let them add to the trove of over 260,000 data points that we collect on the entire Russell 1000. Being free of self-reported data makes this listing free from accusations of conflict of interest or tempting corporate officers to paint a rosier picture than their actual behaviors warrant.

The list includes a number of critical data points and includes factors such as financial health, which have been the cause of some debate. We, at CR Magazine, believe that financial sustainability is important. It allows companies to fund the latest innovations in environmental sustainability. It is hard to imagine a group of executives at a company that is a week away from a bankruptcy filing meeting to discuss their carbon footprint.

We congratulate Hasbro for leading the 2017 list of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens. I have had the opportunity to meet and spend time with their CR team and their CEO, Brian Goldner. They are deeply committed to “responsible play” (we all need more of that) and to corporate responsibility. It is a great company with a great program.

But, it is important in reviewing the list to recognize that commitment and behavior can be great at companies that may not be number one. For example, IBM, one of the world largest and most complex companies, is also one of the most responsible. As they have rotated to a future business model due to changing market dynamics, they have had to endure significant financial stress. At number 73, they are not “less” responsible than those above them in the ranking. In fact, given all the company is trying to accomplish, if they were less committed to corporate responsibility, they may have diverted their attention and investment in their CR program and fallen from the list. However, they and many companies like IBM continue to see responsibility and community development as critical parts of the reason for their very existence. When supply chain and procurement professionals use this list as part of their partner selection process, we encourage them to contact us to better understand some of these nuances.

We also do not rate private companies or ones headquartered outside of the U.S. that are not part of the Russell 1000, but we hope to do so one day. What we do know is a lot about the companies in the Russell 1000. We know that scores for corporate responsibility behavior, as we measure it, continue to improve and that companies are much more conscious of their positive and negative impact (see the red cards for 2016) than they were in 1999 when this list was first published. And—no—we aren’t going to party like it’s 1999 because things are so much better now in the world of corporate responsibility.

We congratulate all of the players who made the Corporate Responsibility Magazine 100 Best Corporate Citizens List this year. They all truly represent the best of what a great CR program is capable of, and we honor their commitment to shareholders, employees, clients and, very importantly, society as whole.

Posted April 20, 2017 in Vol. 8 No. 2 - March/April