Today, Corporate Responsibility magazine announced the 12th annual 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. Intel made the list again this year – coming in at number #13, down from #2 last year.A lot of people internally ask me why our ranking moves from one year to the next, what do they rankings mean, and can we use them internally to drive performance improvements. In recent weeks, I’ve gone into staff meetings for a number of different teams at Intel to talk about some of the new rankings that have come out to help them with their benchmarking projects, which led to some great discussions from groups like our packaging and logistics group on which parts of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index they can best contribute to. I also had the opportunity to serve on the advisory panel for the methodology of a new report put out by SustainAbility called “Rate the Raters” – so have had ratings and rankings very much on the brain in the past month. Reflecting on all this measurement and the many questions I’ve gotten both internally and externally – I came up with my “Five S’s of Sustainability Rankings” on how to make them most useful inside the company. (1) Sustainability. We do measure just about everything at Intel, including analyzing all of our rankings and scores from one year to the next (we have a nice dashboard that we share with executives monthly so they can easily track how we’re being viewed externally). But given the competition for these lists and the close raw scores that often separate one company from the next on the numerical scale, we need to take a longer term view. The fact that we’ve been on this ranking all 12 years and always in the top 20 – that’s what we should focus on. The sustainability of our performance over time is more important than a ranking in one year. (2) Substance. Every ranking has its own strengths and weaknesses, a different universe of companies that it starts with, a different weighing of topics, and different aspects that get rewarded. Understanding this first is key to interpreting the results and your company’s individual ranking. For example, the 100 best list is very focused on promoting transparency and having systems and policies in place. Some other ratings out there, like Newsweek’s, have a reputation component – where they survey EHS and sustainability practitioners as one component of the score. (3) Similarity. One ranking can certainly provide some valuable insight and a snapshot of how your company is being viewed or measured externally – but the best way to prioritize areas for improvement or understand your key strengths and weaknesses is to look across multiple ratings. What are the issues that multiple rankings highlight as your strengths? Areas for improvement? (4) Subscores. To identify improvements in performance, your overall score doesn’t help much in providing feedback and advice to different business groups inside your company. So to the extent to which you can isolate an environmental score, your labor issues score – those are indicators that will have more meaning to individual groups internally than just the overall score as an indicator. Equally important, you can do everything right in some scores and be getting full credit, while another category you have a lot of room for improvement even if your overall score is strong – focus on where you can close some of those bigger gaps. (5) System change. Yes, it’s natural to want to be at the tops of the lists, and I would be lying if I said we didn’t care at all. But it’s in our interest too to see other companies improve over time- our customers, our suppliers, and other leading brands. The reality is that our reputation and performance can be impacted by those of others, so competition to improve corporate responsibility as motivated by placement on these lists is a good thing – greater general trust in companies to operating responsibly and sustainably and more transparency across companies we work with can mean a better operating environment for us in the long term. The #13 spot also meant I was fortunate enough to be included in a small group of company representatives at the launch event, where we got to ring the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange. An incredible opportunity and experience. It was the capstone of a great afternoon, where I had the chance to speak on a panel on making the link of CSR to business value and financial impact, with other CSR practitioners, including Dave Stangis – my former colleague and now VP of CSR at Campbell Soup, Lisa Neuberger-Fernandez from Accenture, and Frank Bernini from Owens Corning. We also heard a presentation from Professor Michael Porter on his concept of shared value – something we’ve been talking about within our CSR team at Intel so great to finally get to meet him in person. My thanks to everyone at NYSE and CR magazine for a great day. And that’s why the number 13 was not my unlucky, but my lucky number this week. Hey, it’s not #2 like last year, but I’m proud that we continue to demonstrate staying power on this ranking and we that are in the company of many other companies who are demonstrating an increased commitment to transparency and to improved performance over time. So how do you use ratings and rankings in your company? What practices/aspects make a given rating more useful to you than others in driving internal performance improvements?
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