On 15 September, we took part in the webinar presentation of “2016 CSR RepTrak® 100”, the international study that ranks business organisations with the best reputation for Corporate Social Responsibility, drawn up every year by Reputation Institute (RI), one of the most authoritative research and consultancy agencies in the field of corporate reputation.

Apart from the interest in this year’s ranking – which, frankly, held few surprises – one section of the study highlighted the importance of the impact on reputation of CSR communication strategies and activities, which are more or less indispensable today, drivers that can accelerate reputation at an exponential speed.

The key point is the difference between CSR and Corporate Reputation, two separate but connected elements: CSR is an internal corporate element, part of the company’s facts, results and initiatives, whereas Corporate Reputation is to do with the perception of internal and external stakeholders, and how they respond to a series of factors relating to the company.

These factors are the 7 pillars of reputation, some emotional, some rational, and they form the basis of the RepTrak® System Model, RI’s patented method of measuring corporate reputation.
When experts draw up CSR rankings, they use only 3 of the 7 pillars:
Citizen: commitment to good causes, positive influence on society, environmental sustainability;
Governance: openness and transparency, ethical conduct, correct business practices;
Workplace: fair worker remuneration, equal opportunities, worker well-being.

In numerical terms, CSR has a significant impact on reputation: in the RI patented measurement model, the CSR INDEX has a 41{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} weighting in the RepTrak® System Model.
The impact reputation can have on a company’s business has also been widely demonstrated (Volkswagen is a case in point).
By logical deduction, this leads to the concept of the REPUTATION ECONOMY, where CSR policies assume an important role in companies’ business and financial results.

An analysis of the survey data acquires particular interest when organisations well known for cutting-edge CSR strategies are compared: for example, BMW ranks in a strong 4th place, compared with Unilever, in a surprisingly low 88th place!
This puts into relief the key concepts of actual CSR and perceived CSR: RI reported a lack of information among the interviewees about Unilever, the multinational chaired by Paul Polman, one of the world’s most active and visionary managers in promoting CSR. This “deficiency” is the reason for Unilever’s low position in the ranking, despite its innovative CSR culture involving the entire organisation (Unilever Sustainable Living Plan).
The crux of the question, as far as communication is concerned, is clear: there is a significant gap between companies’ CSR programs and the way these programs are communicated to stakeholders: too often, businesses “act well but fail to communicate well”, creating a divergence between reality and perception.
CSR must be perceived by stakeholders to generate reputation,” concluded Fernando Prado,
Managing Partner of Reputation Institute. “Do communicate as widely as you can, but always: be true, be transparent, be proportional”.


Download the survey presentation