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Harris: Retailers take top spots in social responsibility poll


Consumers rank Wegmans, Publix Super Markets, and as the top three companies when it comes to corporate social responsibility efforts.

That's according to The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient, which has identified movement, trends and insights in a changing corporate reputation landscape for the past 18 years. This year marks Publix's third consecutive year with an "excellent" social responsibility rating and it is Wegmans' second time in the category. Other retailers receiving "excellent" corporate social responsibility ratings are Lowe's, and L.L. Bean.

"Long gone are the days when acting in a socially responsible manner was optional," said Carol Gstalder, senior VP, The Harris Poll. "The expectations have evolved from simply acting responsibly, to how companies create social value for their stakeholders."

Only eight of the 100 companies measured achieved "excellent" CSR ratings this year. This is the most ever in the 18 years Harris Poll has measured CSR as a major dimension of corporate reputation, but it falls far from expectations, according to Harris Poll.

"Achieving an excellent social responsibility rating is a high bar," said Gstalder. "It wasn't that many years ago when we didn't see any companies attain this level of recognition for their efforts. So while this progress is a testament to how much more active some companies are in their CSR endeavors, it also demonstrates how much more work is needed."

According to Harris Poll's research, employee treatment (39%), ethics (38%) and respectful treatment of customers (35%) are the most important corporate social responsibility issues. These are followed by providing affordable and accessible products and services (29%) and safety (28%).

Forty-five percent of consumers agree that companies develop corporate social responsibility programs because it is the role they believe they should play as leaders in their communities and is primarily motivated by their responsibility to do what's right. Conversely, 40% of consumers say that when companies develop corporate social responsibility activities, they only do so to bolster their image and are primarily motivated by publicity possibilities — they are not truly focused on the effectiveness of their social responsibility efforts.

"Not only is it important to act in a socially responsible manner, but companies' actions must be authentic and true to your company's values," said Wendy Salomon, VP of reputation management and public affairs at The Harris Poll. "Fake it and consumers see right through your ulterior motives, risking negative marks against your corporate reputation."

In other findings:

• Compared to Baby Boomers, Millennials are significantly more likely to proactively try to influence family and friends' perceptions about a company because of something they learned about how the company conducts itself. Forty-one percent of millennials say they do this, up from 37% in 2016, and considerably higher than the 25% of baby boomers who say they do this.

• More than half (51%) of Millennials say they have participated in a conversation with others (in person or online) about how a company conducts itself.

• Both Millennials (69%) and Baby Boomers (82%) are concerned about the increasing amount of personal information companies capture about their customers. But more millennials (46%) than Baby Boomers (36%) have decided not to do business with or not purchase products from a company because they were concerned about how their personal information was protected.

Here are the top 10 social responsibility rankings from the poll:

1. Wegmans

2. Publix Super Markets


4. Tesla Motors


6. Lowe's

7. UPS

8. L.L. Bean

9. Walt Disney Company

10. Whole Foods Market

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