Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a progressive perspective on how to run a business. When the USA Business Roundtable issued its August 19, 2019, statement redefining the purpose of corporations away from maximizing shareholder value to “promoting an economy that serves all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders,” CSR became a central and powerful American business tenet. The 181 CEOs of America’s largest corporations who signed the statement, finally caught on to what early thought leaders in the field had already discovered — doing good for the people, products and places that their corporations touch is good for the community and the business.
Yes, businesses can do good and do well. In fact, it’s increasingly clear that they need to do good in order to do well.
Particularly compelling are the traits frequently embodied by millennials and Gen Xers. These generations intuitively understand how interconnected our world is, so, they spend their time, talents and treasure accordingly. Brands that prove they can help make the world better earn their support.
CSR functions as a natural extension of Better’s mission to amplify social impact. As a logical next step, we’re highlighting some of the world’s top corporations that are leading the charge with their outstanding CSR. These companies have long been leaders in the field or have strong presences in the communities we serve.
The following list includes percentage ratings that denote each company’s CSR/ESG rating by CSRHub when compared with 18,958 companies, as well as other notable rankings and recognition by other trusted media.
Consistently rated Top 10 by Working Mothers Magazine
The values embraced by this Chicago-based research- and innovation-focused biopharmaceutical company — driving innovation, transforming lives, embracing diversity and inclusion, acting with integrity, serving the community — ensure excellence not just with its products and patient care, but with all the constituencies it serves. In 2018, Abbvie donated substantial funds for paid researchers to investigate neglected diseases; collaborated with competitors and others in the medical field to get lower-cost products to underserved countries; donated $350 million to help families; and made it possible for 84 percent of its global employee population to volunteer around the world. Learn more here.
Through clearly stated goals and an annual reporting process, this Chicago-headquartered global supplier of health care products and services proves that it is executing on ambitious CSR goals, including ethics and culture, climate change, community outreach and service, diversity, human rights, supply-chain sustainability, healthcare access and employee development. Learn more here.
Ben & Jerrys
Just 2020 No. 11
Silicon Valley’s Cisco is making impressive progress towards its ambitious goal of positively impacting one billion lives through social impact and signature grants by 2025. This includes ending poverty (yes, they really mean it), helping small farmers around the world, serving 2 million children with its Networking Academy, maintaining an 80 percent employee community service record, improving its supply chain, beating its 1 million ton emission reduction goal, using 100 percent renewable energy, and achieving water neutrality and zero waste. Learn more here.
Founders Doris and Don Fisher started Gap in 1969 with the intention of creating opportunities for the people and communities touched by their business. CSR was in their DNA before that term entered our lexicon. Now the global brand is tackling the waste found in fast fashion; using a transparent, sustainable supply chain; protecting endangered species; reducing energy usage and using energy that is 100 percent renewable; eliminating waste and tackling climate change. Learn more here.
Forbes Top CSR, Classy, Just 2020 No. 6
Google strives to build sustainability and the best CSR practices into everything it does. This includes developing services and providing free tools that improve the lives of as many others as possible in a sustainable way; being the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy; founding [email protected] and other programs to ensure diversity and inclusion; and donating to social initiatives like Goodwill and the Equal Justice Initiative. Learn more here.
However, things have changed a bit in recent times. Google once encouraged internal questions, criticisms and dialogue with employees. But, after a global walk-out by employees a few years ago, employee concern “killing” valuable programs with the military, employees trying to meet outside of work to discuss union organization, and firings of those who were seen as “too activist”, the company has clamped down on the open dialogue culture, as explained in this NYTimes article.
Jones Lang Lasalle
This Chicago-based global real estate firm adopted the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, set its own additional ambitious goals, and reports on them annually. This includes embedding sustainability in every aspect of their business, careful stewardship and development of all of their people, and donating dollars and employee time in the communities they serve. In 2018 alone the company earned six significant awards for its efforts, including Fortune magazine’s World’s Most Admired. Learn more here.
Kirkland & Ellis
Founded in Chicago, with 15 locations worldwide, this is one of the rare, elite law firms that provides detailed descriptions of substantial philanthropy and deep commitments to community service. The firm’s values ensure that excellent CSR strategy will follow. Those values include: embracing and promoting diversity and inclusion within Kirkland and throughout the legal profession; providing pro bono legal services to those who cannot afford counsel; supporting community and law-related organizations through charitable giving; reducing environmental impact through sustainability initiatives. The Foundation, funded by partners, donated over $20 million in 2018, including matching grants for employee, associate and partner NFP gifts. Learn more here.
Guild Top 6, Tops Top CSR, Classy
Lego is a world CSR leader. As part of its commitment to providing all children access to healthy play materials, LEGO donated 580,000 used bricks in 2018, then matched a MacArthur Foundation $100 million grant to Sesame Workshop to bring the power of play to children affected by the Rohingya and Syrian conflicts. The company’s sustainability efforts include using renewable energy in its factories and introducing a plant-based alternative to the polyurethane used in its toys. Lego also supports special events to promote healthy and imaginative play. Learn more here.
San Francisco–based Levi Strauss believes in being a force for positive change in all the communities it serves. The company’s values — empathy, originality, integrity and courage — guide every action. The “profits through principles approach to business” also ensures excellent CSR outcomes. Levi Strauss has long been a leader in taking bold social stands — like fighting HIV and advocating for LTGQ freedom, and filing an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage with the California Supreme Court. Levi’s sustainability efforts include reducing its carbon footprint and water usage in its production process. Learn more about their social impact work here, and their business approach here.
Forbes Top CSR, Classy Just 2020, No. 1
Microsoft’s worldwide CSR initiatives aim to empower people through education and access to technology, safeguard human rights, and sustain the environment. The company has provided over 12 million youth in 54 countries with computer science learning experiences. It also spent $3 billion in 2018 at minority owned businesses and has donated $1.4 billion in software and services to nonprofits worldwide. Sustainability, accessibility and human rights goals inform every aspect of the business. Recently, Microsoft made a commitment to go carbon negative by 2030. Learn more here.
This Chicago-based communications company details authentic commitment to employees, customers, community and the environment. Its environment, health, safety and supply chain standards are rigorous and improving. In 2017, the company started identifying, measuring and reducing carbon and other emissions. Reducing energy and water use, and eliminating waste has also been prioritized. In 2018, the Points of Light Foundation honored Motorola as one of the 50 most community-minded corporations in the U.S. As a communications company, disaster relief is also core to its mission. Learn more here.
Patagonia boldly states that “it is in business to save the planet.” It promotes outstanding labor standards and working conditions throughout its supply chain. Furthermore, its promoting a living wage standard to others in the industry. Patagonia’s core business practices include working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, defending clean water and air, and divesting from dirty technologies — not just within their company, but around the world.
Just 2020 No. 5
This San Francisco–based sales platform believes that CSR has become core not just to its business, but all businesses. “CSR, as a concept, is becoming a focused, strategic business muscle that touches every major stakeholder while creating sustainable community impact. It’s about growth, common sense, culture, impact and most of all, values.” As part of this effort it has created a “Connect To Better” platform to help other employers with CSR, in partnership with United Way.
Salesforce is also leveraging the efforts of its employees, embedding sustainability into all aspects of its business. They’ve earned nine, count ’em nine, awards recently for innovative and determined CSR efforts, including earning spots on Barron’s Most Sustainable Companies list, Fortune’s Change the World and Best Workplace For Women lists and S.F. Business Times’ Top 100 Bay Area Corporate Philanthropists list. Learn more: here.
Guild Top 6, Just 2020, No. 93
Starbucks sees social impact as core to its mission to be a welcoming and inclusive “Third Place” in every community it serves. Its annual report focuses on sustainability, strengthening communities and creating opportunities. This includes ethical practices and supporting the family farms and the regions that supply the beans. The company is proud to offer pay equity and it hires veterans, military spouses, refugees, Opportunity Youth, former prisoners. It offers all employees substantial benefits like health care and education that can help them move their lives forward. Recent CSR initiatives include straw reduction and anti-bias training. Learn more here.
Walt Disney Company
Guild Co Top 6, Forbes Top CSR, Classy
As befits the global leader in family entertainment, Disney’s focus on good values and future growth led it to a compelling CSR position. “Everything that bears our name … reflects our strong commitment to always act ethically, create content and products responsibly, maintain respectful workplaces, invest in communities, and be good stewards of the environment. Aligning our business objectives and strategy with our commitment to being good corporate citizens is … a business imperative.” In 1995, Disney launched its Worldwide Conservation Fund. Disney now measures and reports in-depth on environment, healthy living and volunteering, including reporting on the employee VoluntEARS program. Learn more here.
Just 2020 No. 38
Determined to grow its global financial service leadership by being a “force for good” and doing the right thing for the communities it serves, the environment and its employees through outstanding corporate governance, San Francisco–based Visa has made excellent progress on ambitious goals that include “using 100 percent renewable electricity by the end of 2019 and helping 500 million unbanked or underserved people gain first-time access to digital payments accounts.” It cites its Dow Jones Sustainability Index rating as further proof. Learn more here.
With North American headquarters in Chicago, this Swiss-owned global insurance company is intriguing because of its high CSRHub rating, inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the level of commitment to CSR values explained as its strategy and in this video.
Rather than set goals and report on them, Zurich explains the challenges and opportunities of serving clients while moving the world forward by analyzing opportunities through a lens that recognizes the importance of addressing climate change and incorporating digital solutions for a transforming workforce and world.
For more information on successful CSR, read these tips on having a successful CSR strategy, some companies we’ve celebrated in the past, or advice from an expert corporate advisor.
Susan B. Noyes is the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of Make It Better Media Group, as well as the Founder of Make It Better Foundation’s Philanthropy Awards. A mother of six, former Sidley Austin labor lawyer and U.S. Congressional Aide, passionate philanthropist, and intuitive connector, she has served on boards for the Poetry Foundation, Harvard University Graduate School of Education Visiting Committee, American Red Cross, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Annenberg Challenge, Chicago Public Education Fund, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New Trier High School District 203, and her beloved Kenilworth Union Church. But most of all, she enjoys writing and serving others by creating virtuous circles that amplify social impact.