BOSTON: Google has the best reputation for corporate responsibility in the world, according to Reputation Institute’s 2018 Global CR RepTrak 100 Rankings study.
The study measured corporate responsibility by a company’s commitment to be a fair employer (workplace), its role in society (citizenship), and its ability to meet its fiscal obligations for shareholders (governance).
The Reputation Institute discovered that the tech industry’s overall corporate responsibility reputation declined the most of all industries, with a 3.9 point drop in workplace, a 2.9 point decline in citizenship, and a 2.7 point decline in governance. Tech fell by 3.1 points overall.
Google’s saving grace was its workplace reputation – particularly, its employees’ sense of purpose and its commitment to be an equal opportunity employer, said Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer at Reputation Institute.
"It was successful in other dimensions, but the key differentiator was the workplace," he added, praising CEO Sundar Pichai for embodying the company’s culture.
Last year, the Alphabet-owned company was accused of building a non-inclusive work environment after it fired an engineer named James Damore for publishing a memo that decried Google’s diversity initiatives and argued men were better suited for technology than women.
The Damore incident had little impact on Google’s reputation, Hahn-Griffiths said.
Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Google opted not to divulge it had exposed the data of hundreds of thousands of Google+ users. Google is now shutting down the long-struggling social network.
This, too, will probably pass, Hahn-Griffiths said.
"We have to wait and see how pervasive and believed those stories are," he added. "If I had to hazard a guess, though, because Google has developed so much equity, the impact will be minimal."
This Reputation Institute’s online survey was conducted in partnership with research firm Toluna Group in Q1 of 2018, surveying 230,000 individuals in 15 countries.
Tech isn’t the only industry suffering reputational damage, Hahn-Griffiths said. There has been a "burst in the reputation bubble" all over the world.
"There’s been an erosion of trust across all the companies we measured," he added. "For the first time since the financial crisis, companies have been viewed as [having] less corporate responsibility than in the past. There’s been a 2.1 point decline in all companies measured globally."
Hahn-Griffiths said the decline took place in all three categories: workplace, citizenship, and governance. He attributed this to a preponderance of inauthenticity, fake news, #MeToo accusations, and data and security breaches.
The rest of Reputation’s Institute’s top 10 companies with the best reputations for corporate responsibility in the world is an eclectic group ranging from children’s entertainment to manufacturing. Walt Disney Company finished second, with The Lego Group behind it. After that comes (in order) Natura, Novo Nordisk, Microsoft, Bosch, Canon, Michelin, and Ikea.
Despite corporations’ drop in favorability, corporate reputation hasn’t really made its way into the C-suite, according to a recent Deloitte study that surveyed CEOs and board members.
That study found only 42% of CEOs and 50% of board members have discussed risks to their organizations’ reputations in the past year. Also, 53% of CEOs and 46% of board members can’t identify events that can damage their organization’s reputation.
While almost two-thirds of respondents said they don’t have a process to "identity market signals that indicate a potential culture risk," only 35% plan to spend money doing so over the next year. In addition, less than one-third of organizations provide regular reports to the CEO or board on culture and conduct risks, the study said.
More than half of organizations said they don’t have the ability to analyze events and predict the reputational fallout. About the same percentage of organizations don’t have a plan to develop or buy new tools for reputation management.