Newsroom

The Case for CSR Rankings

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Posted on October 29, 2010

Last week all across America, corporate executives from Fortune 500 companies opened up Newsweek magazine to see how their company faired in the 2010 Newsweek Green Rankings. Some companies will be pleased with their rankings while others will be disappointed. Nearly everyone will question the methodology behind these rankings and offer their own perspective on the quality of Newsweek’s rankings.

Let’s clear something up right away; no green/sustainability rankings are perfect and undoubtedly there are some companies who likely scored higher than they deserved and other companies who scored lower than they should have. There is no perfect, end all be all, ranking for corporate sustainability and by nature, it’s somewhat subjective.

But, the fact that these discussions are occurring at all represents a positive step for corporate sustainability. How many CEO’s are now asking the question “Why didn’t my company score higher on these rankings?” If these rankings spur corporate executives to ask these types of questions and result in a company taking a long hard look at its sustainability program to determine how the company can rank higher in the future; then these types of “green rankings,” as flawed as they may be, are a good thing in my book.

Corporate America needs to have frank conversations with investors, key stakeholders, third party groups and last but not least their customers about their company’s sustainability initiatives including their successes AND  their failures.

Every three months public companies provide these same above mentioned stakeholders with an update about how the company is doing, what is working well and what is not working. It’s called quarterly earnings. CSR executives ought to take a page from their CFO’s playbook and start discussing their sustainability successes and failures on a more routine basis. Let’s celebrate the successes and have truthful discussions about the failures when they occur. When a company achieves a sustainability goal such as reducing their GHG emissions or increasing their use of renewable energy we should celebrate these accomplishments.  When a company fails to reach a sustainability goal, such as a reduction in waste, we should talk about why; just as the CFO explains why a company missed their quarterly earnings target.

Having more truthful and thoughtful conversations about sustainability will continue to further the great strides many corporations have made over the past five years on the sustainability front. And if rankings like the Newsweek Green Rankings help facilitate this dialogue, I say kudos to Newsweek and I look forward to reading the 2011 Rankings!

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