Dozens of sources are now available to examine how responsible—or irresponsible—a company is. Information about corporate social responsibility (CSR) or corporate responsibility (CR) is used by individual investors, financial professionals and institutions to analyze whether or not an investment really meshes with the investors target set of values, in addition to whether or not it meets financial criteria. With the broad range of information available—ranging from free web sites to subscription services providing daily reports—it is impossible to assemble a complete review in one place. However, this section provides recent perspectives on the best companies (the good companies in "White Hats") and the worst companies ("Black Hats"), as well as summaries and access to some of these reports and resources.
In its Spring 2005 issue, Business Ethics Magazine identified "The 100 Best Corporate Citizens: Companies that serve a variety of stakeholders with excellence and integrity." Companies were rated on eight issues: corporate citizenship, minorities and women, fairness to employees, environment, non-US stakeholders, customer satisfaction and governance. The top ten on this list are:
- Cummins, Inc.
- Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.
- St Paul Travelers Cos., Inc.
- Nuveen Investments, Inc.
- Intel Corp.
- Wells Fargo & Co.
- Hewlett-Packard Co.
- Procter & Gamble Co.
- Novell, Inc.
- Xerox Corp.
Business Ethics notes at the conclusion of its report: "…on balance, the social evaluations done by KLD [Research & Analytics, Inc]. show that the good deeds of the firms on this list far outweigh their misdeeds. They’re not perfect. But they do—in measurable ways—meet the test of good corporate citizenship." Business Ethics Magazine and Co-op America publish such reports periodically. In addition, several investment advisors are now evaluating companies on a regular schedule using social and environmental criteria.
The Multinational Monitor, edited by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, is a periodical dedicated to observing and reporting the behavior of multinational corporations. Each year, the staff and outside judges assemble a list of the corporations with the worst records in price gouging, polluting, union-antagonizing and other questionable tactics. Based on corporate behavior, the Multinational Monitor has named the following companies (listed in alphabetical order) as the Ten Worst Corporations of 2004:
- Abbott Laboratories
- Coca Cola
Visit the link above for the complete report. Mokhiber and Weissman have also authored Corporate Predators: The Hunt for Mega-Profits and the Attack on Democracy, which examines the relationship between large businesses and government around the world. For details, go to www.corporatepredators.org.
SRI research organization KLD Research & Analytics, Inc. evaluates companies based upon a variety of social and environmental criteria. Following are excerpts from sample reports, illustrating the types of data for which SRI investors and professionals often screen :
Aetna, Inc. (AET) re: employee relations. In December, 2001, Aetna announced plans to reduce its workforce by approximately 15% (6,000 employees) through layoffs and attrition. (12/13/01)
Alcoa, Inc. (AA) re: environment. In December 2001, activist groups, including Environmental Defense, Public Citizen, and Neighbors for Neighbors sued Alcoa for failing to reduce emissions from its Texas smelting operations. The groups allege that Alcoa made significant changes to its power plant operations and should be subject to newer emission limits. The company denied its plant modifications constituted a major change. (12/27/01)
Allergan, Inc. (AGN), Amgen, Inc. (AMGN), Baxter Intnl. (BAX), Chiron (CHIR) et. al., re: marketing & contracting. In December, 2001, 15 consumer groups filed suit against 28 pharmaceutical companies, including Allergan, Amgen, Baxter & Chiron, alleging that the companies overcharged Medicare for drugs. (12/26/01)
Allstate Corp. (ALL) re: diversity. In December 2001, the company was sued by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission for age discrimination and retaliatory actions against former sales employees. (12/28/01)
ChevronTexaco Corp. (CVX) re: environment. In December 2001, The Houston Chronicle reported that environmentalists in Kazakhstan were concerned about the impact of increased oil production on human health and wildlife in the country's Tengiz region near the Caspian Sea. ChevronTexaco and Exxon Mobil share a combined 75% interest in TengizChevroil, the primary oil company operating in the Tengiz oil field. (12/16/01)
Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) re: negative economic impact. In December 2001, Dow Chemical settled the claims of 69 families in Toms River, New Jersey, alleging that chemical dumping by Union Carbide and two other companies during the 1950s and 1960s could be blamed for causing cancer in local children. The company settled for an undisclosed amount. Union Carbide, which was acquired by Dow in February 2001, did not admit wrongdoing. (12/14/01)
DuPont Co. (DD) re: environment. In December 2001, the Associated Press reported that DuPont agreed with Delaware state environmental authorities to clean up 23 acres contaminated with dioxin near its Edge Moor pigment plant along the Delaware River. According to the article, the environmental project could cost the company $15 million. (12/14/01)
Ford Motor Co. (F) re: diversity. In December 2001, Ford agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a racial discrimination suit brought by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission. The suit involved 23 African American employees who claimed that another employee created a hostile work environment at a Michigan plant. (12/21/01)
Holly Corp. (HOC) re: environment and regulatory problems. In December 2001, the company agreed to pay a $750,000 civil penalty and spend $1.5 million on community environmental projects near three refineries to settle allegations that it had violated the Clean Air Act. In addition, Holly agreed to spend between $16 million and $21 million to reduce harmful air emissions at the three refineries. (12/20/01)
Lincare Holdings, Inc. (LNCR) re: product. In December 2001, Lincare agreed to pay $3.15 million to the US Attorney's office in California to settle charges of improperly billing Medicare. In settling, the company did not admit wrongdoing. (12/18/01)
Phelps Dodge Corp. (PPD) re: environment. In December 2001, Phelps Dodge agreed to a $375 million reclamation plan with Arizona environmentalist regulators for its Chino copper mine in southwestern New Mexico. (12/25/01)
Sunoco, Inc. (SUN) re: environment. In December 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited the company for alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act at three of its refineries, in Marcus Hook and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in Toledo, Ohio. (12/21/01)
Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC). In December 2001, the U.S. Department of Labor sued Wells Fargo over its role as a discretionary trustee for an employee stock ownership plan that bought a majority interest in a California petroleum company for approximately $10 million more than it was worth. In the suit, the department charged that Wells Fargo, in its role as a trustee, violated key provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. (12/19/01)
It is interesting to note that Wells Fargo was cited for employee relations and fiduciary problems in 2001 and, four years later using data from the same researcher, Wells Fargo was among the top ten best companies as determined by Business Ethics Magazine (see above). While these anecdotal data in no way constitute conclusive evidence, they do suggest that the influence of SRI or ethical investors may help a company improve its corporate behavior.
*The following information has gathered from third-party sources and relates to ethical issues involving corporate behavior. It in no way implies a projection of the financial condition of a company nor judgment about the merits of investing in the company stock.