RepTrak and CSR Reputation

A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar organised by a global PR firm, the Reputations Institute, to present their 2015 findings for “RepTrak”, an annual survey of corporate reputation. Essentially, companies pay the Institute a fat fee (from €9.5k) for data on where they stand with the general public. The participating organisations are ranked based on a global survey which asks members of the public what they think of the company.

As part of the survey, respondents are asked to rate companies on their CSR “performance”, along with other categories like “products/services”, “innovation” and “leadership”. For RepTrak, CSR includes three dimensions: Citizenship, Governance and Workplace, which they suggest adds up to 43% of “people’s willingness to trust the organisation”.

The seminar focused on the results of the Irish survey, which had 5,000 respondents. Top of the rankings was Bord Bia, followed in order by Kelloggs, Irish League of Credit Unions, Google and, unfortunately and hilariously, Volkswagen. While the Reputations Institute stressed that the survey took place before emissions-gate, the result highlights the considerable gap between what people think companies are doing and what they are actually doing. For the record, the top 5 companies worldwide are Google, BMW, Walt Disney, Microsoft and Daimler, as we can see on the RepTrak website – https://www.reputationinstitute.com/research/Global-RepTrak-100.

The really interesting thing about the survey results was what the Reputation Institute called the “unsureness” among the general public as to what companies are doing around CSR; 49% – 69% of the survey respondents were unsure about what companies are doing, particularly on CSR. The majority did not mention anything specific the companies did, with any specific comments related to funding community projects and being “environmentally-friendly”. The latter comment was applied to Coillte and, more prosaically, Ryanair… and VW…

Ultimately, this raises interesting questions around the value and content of Sustainability/CSR Reports. Who is reading these reports, if anyone, and does anyone want to read them; whatever about the content of the reports? Maybe the public only react to large scale, highly publicised news stories? We’ll have to wait until next years RepTrak survey to find out.

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