October, 2010A just-released study of public perceptions of U.S. companies' social impact indicates that in the eyes of the American public businesses overall are more socially responsible than a year ago.
Johnson & Johnson tops the rankings in the Corporate Social Responsibility Index with a score of 82.67 that puts it in the excellent category along with The Walt Disney Company, Kraft Foods Inc., Microsoft, PepsiCo and Apple, all earning scores above 80 (using a 100 point scale). To be included in the CSR Index 50 this year a company needed to rate above 72.52, an increase of more than 3 points from 2009. The top 25 companies all rated at or above 75 in this year's study.
The Corporate Social Responsibility Index was developed by researchers at the Carroll School of Management's Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College in conjunction with the Reputation Institute to understand how companies' reputations are affected by public perceptions of performance related to citizenship (the community and the environment), governance (ethics and transparency) and workplace practices. Rankings in the CSR Index are based on a survey conducted in January and February 2010 of 7,790 online consumers in the United States.
The overall rise in ratings of companies' social responsibility comes at a time when public expectations of corporate social responsibility from business remain very high, with ethics and governance issues continuing to be in the spotlight. The Boston College Center's 2009 State of Corporate Citizenship survey found that 54 percent of U.S. senior executives believe corporate citizenship is even more important in a recession. The scores in the CSR Index reflect that companies are embracing corporate citizenship as they recognize keeping pace with public expectations requires enhancing CSR performance in tough times.
Looking at the rankings by industry sectors, it appears the public has positive attitudes about companies that provide them with creature comforts. The beverage, consumer products and food manufacturing industries top the rankings with average scores exceeding 73. This may be an indication that familiarity with these companies in heavily customer-facing industry sectors breeds favorability among the public. Many of the companies in these sectors are also successful communicators of their CSR efforts and link those efforts with their brand. Communicating about corporate citizenship efforts becomes even more important in an age of skepticism when only two in 10 consumers trust what companies say in their advertising. This also was not lost on business as evidenced again by the 2009 State of Corporate Citizenship which found more companies were reporting, both to the public and to their employees, about corporate citizenship.
In the 2010 CSR Index, of the 230 companies measured, 25 rated scores of 75 or higher to place them in the excellent category and another 115 scored 66 or more to reach the strong category. Among the top 50, every company scored 72.5 or higher. By comparison, one year before, only nine companies scored higher than 75 and 104 had scores higher than 66 in the 2009 CSR Index.
Each of the 7,790 respondents surveyed for the 2010 CSR Index was allowed to rate a maximum of five companies with which they were familiar, which resulted in a total of 24,977 ratings of 230 selected companies. All companies were rated by at least 100 respondents. Ratings are statistically significant at a 95 percent confidence level with a margin of error +/-0.5. In other words, companies have significantly different results when their scores are greater than 0.5 points apart. Respondents' distribution represents the U.S. adult population based on age and gender.
The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship is a membership-based research organization that is part of the Carroll School of Management. It is committed to helping business leverage its social, economic and human assets to ensure both its success and a more just and sustainable world. As a leading resource on corporate citizenship, the Center works with global corporations to help them define, plan and operationalize their corporate citizenship. Through the power of research, management and leadership programs, and the insights of its 350 corporate members, the Center creates knowledge, value and demand for corporate citizenship.