As any successful business leader knows, the primary objective of running a business is turning a profit. And yet, this universal truth is often burdened by negative connotations of making money at all costs, including the expense of customers, societies and even their employees. However, an increasing number of businesses are disproving that myth by operating under the conscious capitalism ideal.
Conscious capitalism is the idea that business operations are used as a force for good without sacrificing profitability. Whether elevating environmental standards, giving back to the community or upholding employees’ and customers’ health and interests, conscious capitalism uses business to create prosperity for an organization and all stakeholders.
As educators here at Grand Canyon University, we know that today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. That’s why we want the students of our MBA programs to graduate not only with stellar business understanding but with the passion and conviction to create the utmost value for their future employees, customers, investors and even the communities where they may operate. We want them to be conscious leaders who focus on harmonizing business objectives with all stakeholders’ interests.
We wanted to know which companies have the best reputations with their stakeholders over the last few years and how much revenue they have been able to make while doing their part for the environment, communities, employees, consumers and all stakeholders.
To do so, we, along with help from Grand Canyon Education, turned to RepTrak, a company that collects data on businesses and their stakeholder reputations. We analyzed which companies appear on the Global RepTrak reports from 2018,1 20192 and 2020,3 which track the 100 most reputable companies of the year on a variety of reputation drivers like citizenship, finances, governance, leadership and more. We also gathered data on each company’s industry and earnings from the Fortune 500,4 individual company websites and annual reports. Read on to see what we found.
Which Companies Are Considered the Most Reputable Among Stakeholders?
What do a luxury watch company, a children’s toy company and a technology giant have in common? They were the top three most responsible companies in 2018. And while Rolex and Lego remained in the top three every year we tracked, Google surprisingly dropped out of the top 10 all together in 2019 and 2020.
Each year, there are significant variations in the top 10 companies that practice conscious capitalism. In 2019, Disney, Adidas and Microsoft enjoyed a boost to their RepTrak rankings, while Canon fell three places and Bosch lost two positions. In 2020, Lego made a move for No. 1, while Rolex fell to third place. Additionally, perhaps due to efforts to help entertain during lockdowns caused by COVID-19, Disney and Netflix gained ground.
Overall, Disney increased from fifth place in 2018 to second place in 2020, and Canon fell off the list entirely. As rankings change, it is clear that conscious capitalism must be a sustained and legitimate effort to value stakeholders alongside revenue.
So which companies’ conscious capitalism efforts were the most consistent? We ranked the top 10 most reputable companies based on the average of their rankings on each of the three RepTrak lists. Lego and Rolex tied for first place with an average ranking of 1.7, with Disney and Ferrari being the closest competitors at 3.3 and 4.0, respectively.
With a wide variety of companies scoring so well, it was clear that corporate responsibility is not limited to or dominated by any one industry. To determine whether there are any synergies between corporate responsibility and industry, we analyzed the most represented industries out of the companies that appeared on the RepTrak 100 at least once.
Technology and automotive companies tied with 15 representatives. One possible explanation for the technology industry could be because of a boom after environmental issues shifted into the spotlight of cultural and social discourse. While much more rooted in history than technology companies, automotive brands are under the weight of immense public and governmental pressure to be kind to the environment.
Conglomerates were next on the list with 11 representatives. These are corporations that own a controlling stake in multiple different companies in which each operates independently from one another.
Food processing and the pharmaceutical industry claimed 10 represented companies each. While 2021 data was not available at the time of this study, we can only imagine a dramatic shift in reputation for 2021 due to the countless person-hours going into the development of vaccines for COVID-19, and how food processing was handled safely during the pandemic.
Knowing which companies and even which industries claim the title of “most responsible,” we also wanted to know where they call home. We looked up the headquarters for each represented company to generate a map of the most responsible states.
The Most Reputable Companies by State
Out of the 121 global companies that appeared on the RepTrak list at least once from 2018-2020, 56 of them (46%) are headquartered in the United States. California is home to the majority of them, likely because of the state’s high population density and its propensity for technology companies—the most represented industry on the list.
New York is in second place, with six of the most reputable companies calling it home. Notable examples include Ralph Lauren, Estee Lauder and the Colgate-Palmolive Company. Toward the bottom of the list, 10 states are home to just one of the most reputable companies. Eli Lilly is headquartered in Indiana, 3M in Minnesota and Nike in Oregon, to name a few.
Internationally, Japan and Germany house the highest numbers of the most reputable companies. Japan was an expected result due to its position as an international innovator of technology, and Germany is a hub for fine automotive engineering, with companies like the BMW Group and Daimler (Mercedes) making the list.
Companies That Earned the Most While on the List
Of course, operating in the interests of stakeholders is just half of the conscious capitalism equation. There must be an element of revenue seeking and even profit. For that, we looked into earnings for each company on the list to find out which ones made the most money.
To find out how earnings stacked up against stakeholder reputation, we calculated total revenue for each segment of 10 rankings on the list. While the data doesn’t support a consistent positive relationship between revenue and reputation, we did see that companies ranking 1-10 were consistently big earners during all three years.
Companies like Tesla, Netflix and Microsoft did very well for themselves while on the RepTrak list. Tesla’s 2019 revenue was 45% more than the year before, while Amazon’s revenue grew by 33% from 2019-2020.
Boeing, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well. But we can’t be quick to judge the airline based on the findings. With travel essentially screeching to a halt in 2020 due to the global pandemic, it wasn’t surprising to see a global airline manufacturer like Boeing turning lower profits than usual.
To have a little fun with representing the amount of money made by the world's most reputable companies, we visualized a stack of cash equal to the sum of all 2018-2020 revenues of all companies appearing anywhere on the 2018-2020 RepTrak reports. The results were staggering.
Across all three years, the represented companies made a collective $14,977,996,954,730. This graphic is an excellent illustration of how this sum volume compares to notable numbers on Earth and beyond. If you laid $100 bills on top of one another, there would be enough to reach over 101,000 miles into space – almost halfway from here to the moon!
As we wrote in a previous post, conscious capitalism is integral to our business programs’ DNA. We train our business graduates to do business with purpose and think about generating all types of wealth, from financial to social, ecological, and cultural. If you believe conscious capitalism is the right way to do work and want to make a difference by using business for a higher purpose, learn more about our business and management degree programs.
1Ranking the Brands, “US Reptrak 100 (2018)” in January 2021
2Ranking the Brands, “US Reptrak 100 (2019)” in January 2021
3Ranking the Brands, “US Reptrak 100 (2020)” in January 2021
4Fortune, “Fortune 500” in January 2021
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.