Wegmans, Publix, Amazon, Lowe’s, L.L. Bean get top scores for social responsibility

Wegmans also took the No. 1 spot for baby boomers.

According to The Harris Poll’s corporate social responsibility rankings for the year, eight of the 100 most visible companies achieved a rating of “excellent,” and five of them are retailers: Wegmans, Publix, Amazon, Lowe's and L.L. Bean.

"Long gone are the days when acting in a socially responsible manner was optional,” said Carol Gstalder, senior vice president, The Harris Poll. “The expectations have evolved from simply acting responsibly, to how companies create social value for their stakeholders.”

This is Publix’s third consecutive year with an “excellent” social responsibility rating, and it is Wegmans’ and Amazon’s second time in the category. This was the first time that retailers Lowe’s and L.L. Bean scored an “excellent” review. 

Although it did not receive a score of “excellent,” Whole Foods Market made the top 10 and Hobby Lobby’s score improved by 7.3 points. 

What social responsibility issues were most important to those polled? Employee treatment ranked highest (39%), followed by ethics (38%), respectful treatment of customers (35%), providing affordable and accessible products and services (29%) and safety (28%).

But it seems that customers are split as to why companies want to bolster their social responsibility programs. About 45% said companies do it because they are primarily motivated by their responsibility to do what’s right. Forty percent of consumers say that when companies develop corporate social responsibility activities, they only do so to bolster their image.

Interestingly, company reputation differed by generation. While Publix and Amazon were in the top 5 for millennials, Wegmans took the No. 1 spot for baby boomers. 

Forty-one percent of millennials say they try to influence family and friends with their perceptions of a company, up from 37% in 2016 and considerably higher than the 25% of baby boomers who say they do this. Also noteworthy: 51% of millennials say they have participated in a conversation with others, in person or online, about how a company conducts itself.

“It’s no secret that millennials have tremendous buying power, but with roughly half taking action and proactively working to convince others to do the same—that’s staggering,” said Wendy Salomon, vice president of reputation management and public affairs at The Harris Poll. “If companies are not taking steps to integrate social responsibility activities with their corporate DNA and effectively communicate to customers about why these programs are important, they are already behind.”