When it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR), some big brands are stepping up—but others, like Volkswagen, are not doing so well.
SIGWATCH—a global network that tracks and analyses activist campaigns—has issued its annual list of “Most Criticized and Praised Corporations in 2015.” The summary is gleaned from nearly 6,000 NGO campaigning actions globally.
Nestlé heads the global 20 most praised corporations list, with Marks & Spencer second, McDonald’s third and Unilever fourth. Seven retailers, including Walmart, H&M and Tesco and Sainsbury as well as Marks & Spencer made the global top 20 for NGO praise.
Shell (Royal Dutch Shell) was number one global criticized brand, followed by Monsanto, World Bank, TransCanada and ExxonMobil. Due to Dieselgate, Volkswagen joined the list for the first time, in the number seven spot.
Shell was the most criticized company in the US largely due to the 2015 Greenpeace-led global campaign against Arctic drilling. TransCanada (Keystone XL) continued as the second most criticized company in North America, with a second pipeline company, Enbridge, at number four.
McDonald’s was the most praised company in 2015, with Whole Foods in second place, Nestlé in third, and Apple in fourth. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Société Générale all appeared in the 20 most praised companies for the first time.
In the UK, nine of the top 20 most criticized companies were oil, coal or mining companies. Shell, BP and Rio Tinto took the top three places followed by newcomer Volkswagen. Standard Chartered, Barclays and HSBC banks were in the top 10 for criticism.
Marks & Spencer, Unilever and Nestlé were the most praised companies in the UK. Tesco, Associated British Foods (owner of Primark), IKEA, Sainsbury, Coca-Cola and John Lewis Partnership were among the 10 most praised.
In Europe, fossil fuel energy companies were the main targets for criticism while food companies, retailers and financial institutions were the most praised with Unilever, Marks & Spencer, Crédit Agricole (French bank), Nestlé and Rewe (German supermarket chain) the favorites.
Activism in Latin America was dominated by the extractives and agricultural sectors, hydro power and threats to indigenous peoples, and of the 20 most criticized corporations, only one, Burger King, was not a mining or power company.
Leading the most praised companies in Latin America was the World Bank, followed by McDonald’s along with Cargill, HSBC, Facebook, Walmart, Microsoft and Hyundai.
In the Asia-Pacific region, companies linked to coal, fossil fuel divestment, ag biotech and deforestation linked to palm oil plantations dominated criticism. Adani was the most criticized because of its controversial coal-mining expansion plan in Queensland, Australia, and BHP Billiton, was the fourth most criticized. Chemical and ag biotech firms Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer also fared poorly.
Apple was the most praised, up from 14th place in 2014, while Google and Facebook and regional Asian companies such as Naver and SK C&C were praised on energy sourcing. Coca-Cola was praised by Asia-Pacific NGOs for its animal experimentation ban.