Google's Sundar Pichai drops to No. 88 on Reputation Institute CEO study

Tech CEOs fared poorly in the report.

Photo credit: Getty images
Photo credit: Getty images

NEW YORK: Google CEO Sundar Pichai plummeted in this year’s edition of the Reputation Institute’s CEO RepTrak study that ranks corporate reputation, falling from the No. 1 spot in 2018 to No. 88.

More than 140 global CEOs were ranked based on more than 230,000 individual ratings from the general informed public in January and February. Respondents rated reputation according to four characteristics: leadership, influence, responsibility and management.

Prominent drags on the reputations of Pichai and Google have included an employee walkout in response to the company’s handling of sexual harassment complaints and privacy concerns.

Pichai and Alphabet CEO Larry Page were no shows in September 2018 after Congress called on the executives to testify. Their absences raised eyebrows, said Kylie Wright-Ford, CEO of the Reputation Institute.

"Judgment day can be very quick and punishing," she said.

Other tech leaders also fared poorly, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Bezos suffered from coverage that portrayed him as a CEO who doesn’t care about his employees or social causes, said Wright-Ford.

Meanwhile, "the public no longer expects [Zuckerberg] to behave responsibly or ethically," she added.

Wright-Ford explained that Zuckerberg’s fall from grace shows the double-edged sword of aligning a CEO’s reputation with that of a company. On average, CEOs had a familiarity rating of 13%; Zuckerberg’s was 49%, meaning his personal conduct could have an outsized impact on Facebook’s reputation.

"We’re in favor of having high familiarity because it can increase the halo effect on the company, and in a tight labor market, it couldn’t be more important," Wright-Ford said.

Despite the suffering rankings of tech executives, the reputations of CEOs increased two points in the study. The increase was driven primarily by responsibility, meaning an executive is responsible, ethical and cares about social issues.

The study did not rank the top 10 executives, but included the following: Shell’s Ben van Beurden; Lego’s Niels Christiansen; Dell’s Michael Dell; Danone’s Emmanuel Faber; Estée Lauder’s Fabrizio Freda; Nintendo’s Shuntaro Furukawa; ING’s Ralph Hamers; Mary Kay’s David Holl; Hilton’s Christopher Nassetta; and Deutsche Lufthansa’s Carsten Spohr.

Estee Lauder, ING and Nintendo were the only companies that repeated top 10 spots from last year. Only four female CEOs qualified for the study, and of them, only GlaxoSmithKline’s Emma Walmsley made it into the top 20, according to a statement from the Reputation Institute.

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