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March 27, 2002
Executives and Analysts Name Most Admired Socially Responsible Companies
    by William Baue

A recent Fortune magazine survey lists America's most admired companies, with one section of the list devoted to social responsibility.

In its March 4 issue, Fortune magazine published its twentieth annual list of "America's Most Admired Companies." The global consultancy firm HayGroup conducted the research, asking 10,000 executives and securities analysts to rate companies on a scale of zero (worst) to ten (best) based on eight attributes, one being social responsibility.

"The eight attributes were determined by interviews with industry executives and analysts more than 20 years ago," said Fortune magazine Senior List Editor L. Michael Cacace. "[Social responsibility] was one of the criteria executives and analysts felt strongly about including in the determination of a company worthy of admiration."

Other attributes include innovation, financial soundness, employee talent, use of corporate assets, long-term investment value, quality of management, and quality of products/services.

Fortune's longstanding inclusion of social responsibility as a key attribute to determine admirable companies may surprise those who thought that corporate social responsibility (CSR) was a relatively recent development. CSR is not entering mainstream consciousness--it is already firmly embedded there.

The survey defines social responsibility simply as "responsibility to the community and/or the environment," according to HayGroup Associate Consultant Tiffany Mortellito. The survey thus relies heavily on the survey respondents' own understanding of what constitutes social responsibility.

"Feedback from respondents in recent years shows a growing 'awareness' of the importance of the social responsibility attribute," said Mr. Cacace. "The majority of calls I receive are from companies asking about their ranking by this attribute."

Fortune's website lists not only overall ratings, but also ratings by subcategories such as the eight individual attributes. Topping the list for social responsibility were the New York Times (ticker: NYT), with an 8.0 average rating. Target (TGT) and Procter & Gamble (PG) tied for second place, with both receiving a 7.9 average rating. At the bottom of the list were Federal-Mogul (FMO) with a rating of 2.8, Dillard's (DDS) at 2.6, and Warnaco Group (WAC) at 2.0.

Respondents chose from a universe that consisted of the ten largest companies by revenues in 58 industries, including large subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies. For the first time, Fortune published its list of the "World's Most Admired Companies" simultaneously with the U.S. list this year. The global universe included only companies with annual revenues of $8 billion or more, removing some companies that appear in the U.S. ranking from consideration on the global list.

The New York Times thus disappeared from the global list for social responsibility, bumping Target and Procter & Gamble up to the top two positions. United Parcel Service (UPS) placed third with a 7.7 average rating. Bringing up the bottom of the global list for social responsibility were Kmart (KM) at 3.7 and two Japanese corporations, MYCAL (3.4) and Snow Brand Milk Products (3.2).


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