Corporate Transparency: Who's on the Black List?


Corporate responsibility and transparency go hand-in-hand.

That’s the thinking behind Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s “Black List” of public companies that fail to disclose information about their corporate citizenship.

For 12 years, the publication has carried out an annual survey of companies in the Russell 1000 Index, a stock market index that represents large companies that make up more than 90 percent of the U.S. market. Companies are evaluated on seven categories – climate change, employee relations, environment, finances, governance, human rights and philanthropy – using publicly-available data such as company websites and sustainability reports.

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Earlier this year, CR Magazine published its “100 Best Corporate Citizens List,” with Johnson Controls, Campbell Soup, IBM, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Mattel clinching the top five spots. According to CR Magazine, their study is known as the world’s top corporate responsibility ranking based on publicly-available information and is recognized by PR Week as one of the U.S.’s top three most important business rankings.

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Now the magazine has released its “Black List,” which includes the 58 companies from the Russell 1000 Index that had no information publicly available regarding their corporate citizenship activities. As part of the analysis, researchers contacted the companies to give them an opportunity to provide missing data, but their inquiries were denied.

“Does the company allow directors to serve on more than four boards? Does it reveal the results of energy conservation programs? Does it offer flexible spending accounts via its healthcare plan? Even if the answer is no to these and many other questions, any company can avoid the ‘Black List’ simply by answering one of the questions,” wrote Dirk Olin, CR Magazine’s editor and publisher, on the magazine’s website.

Financial companies represent more than half of the members of the “Black List,” which also includes companies in the energy, consumer goods and health care sectors. While many of the names of black-listed companies would be unfamiliar to average consumers, the most recognizable of the least transparent companies include DreamWorks, NASDAQ and Madison Square Garden.

“Transparency is essential to society’s moral structure, and opacity blocks accountability,” Olin said. “It would be a simple matter for these companies to open just a few windows into their operations to give stakeholders the visibility they need to make informed decisions about whom to work for and buy from and invest in. The willful reclusiveness of these companies suggests they have something to fear from working in plain sight.”

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