Corporate reputations improve during a year of crises—what’s been the key differentiator?

by | Apr 22, 2021 | Public Relations

Reputation data and insights firm The RepTrak Company recently released the results of the 2021 Global RepTrak 100, a comprehensive reputation study offering in-depth analysis and ranking of the top 100 companies worldwide by Reputation Score.

In 2021, it was a much more difficult year to break into the top 100. The average score (on a scale of 1-100) was almost 75, the highest in 11 years. This is an indication of the rigorous reputation management in place among these leaders. The research reveals that several of the companies that rank highest are those that have implemented ESG (Environment, Societal impact and Governance) initiatives within their global strategies.

Being relevant mattered in a difficult year

Consumer durables and apparel, technology (both hardware and software) and household and personal products companies lead the way after a year when the world depended on them for productivity, entertainment, comfort and safety.

What’s driving corporate reputation in 2021?

Corporate reputations improve during a year of crises—what’s been the key differentiator?

Big Pharma saw the biggest improvement

The pharmaceutical industry’s Reputation Score improved from “average” to “strong” with vaccines propelling positive perceptions. Sanofi S.A., Eli Lilly Company and Bristol Myers Squibb are among the top 10 for Reputation Score growth this year.

Corporate reputation by industry:

Corporate reputations improve during a year of crises—what’s been the key differentiator?

ESG leadership went to the pharmaceutical and household and personal products industries

The global respondents credited their ESG initiatives more than any other industries, another indication of the importance of pandemic-centered relevance in 2020.

No matter what your business goal is, you need to care about ESG

Corporate reputations improve during a year of crises—what’s been the key differentiator?

Gen Z (18-25) and Millennial (26-40) perceptions differ

Gen Z perceives corporations with the greatest skepticism, as indicated by their weaker levels of support for the seven drivers of corporate reputation codified by RepTrak. Millennials were the most positive of all generational segments. Gen X (41-55) and Boomers (56-64) fall in the middle and don’t differ greatly.

2021’s Reputation Leaders

The top 10 companies by Reputation Score, as ranked in the 2021 Global RepTrak 100 are:

Corporate reputations improve during a year of crises—what’s been the key differentiator?

The Lego Group maintained its #1 ranking from 2020, showing a steady increase in Reputation Score over the last several years, with all others in the top 10 in a new position compared to last year’s report. These year over year changes indicate that a company must continually work to improve its reputation and stay relevant.

High growth in a challenging year

The top ten of the 100 companies rated by greatest reputation increases and positive movement in their ranking are: Unilever PLC; Mars, Incorporated; Cisco Systems, Inc.; The Samsung Group; Sanofi S.A.; Harley-Davidson, Inc.; HP Inc.; Procter & Gamble Company; Eli Lilly and Company; and Bristol Myers Squibb.

“At Cisco, we take our reputation seriously. Our purpose as a company is to power an inclusive future for all, and this drives everything we do,” said Gerri Elliot, EVP and chief sales and marketing officer at Cisco Systems, in a news release. “We believe it starts with the trust of our stakeholders to look after our people, our communities and our planet. This goes hand in hand with our relentless focus on innovation, to provide more choice and opportunities for our customers. The last year has been difficult for many, so it’s truly inspiring to be recognized for the impact we are making, and spurs us onwards to do more.”

Top 10 most reputable companies by generation:

Corporate reputations improve during a year of crises—what’s been the key differentiator?

“For Mars, building trust is a key business metric,” said Andy Pharoah, vice president of corporate affairs & sustainability at Mars, Incorporated, in the release. “And we believe maintaining a strong reputation is central to our ability to achieve our goals and live up to our purpose—that the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today. In the past year, which has been unlike any other, it’s more important than ever for businesses like Mars to communicate regularly and frequently with our stakeholders and Associates. Success is about navigating the challenges of the day with clarity, empathy and integrity. These results demonstrate that our efforts are having a positive impact, and are being recognized more broadly.”

Eighteen companies are new to the rankings this year, the largest number of newcomers since its inception 11 years ago. These new entrants include luxury fashion leaders (Chanel Inc, Hermès, Prada Group, Burberry Group Plc), travel and automotive industry names (Volvo Group, Booking.com, Continental AG), consumer companies (Costco Wholesale Corporation, ALDI GmbH & Co. KG, Mattel, Inc.) and other leaders: Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), BIC, Adobe Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, PayPal, Henkel AG & Co.

ESG rises in importance

This year’s results clearly show that there is a strong correlation between companies that adhere to high ESG standards and companies that score favorably on the RepTrak 100.

“ESG is being used for the first time this year as a measurable component of reputation, and we can see firsthand why this is so important for 2021 and beyond. There is a strong correlation between companies who hold themselves to high standards, and companies who rank highly on the 2021 Global RepTrak 100,” says Kylie Wright-Ford, CEO of The RepTrak Company, in the release. “Stakeholders have access to more information than ever before, which is empowering them to make more informed decisions. Companies must not only deliver a quality product, but also show that they are doing so in an ethical and globally considerate way.”

For Environment, RepTrak looks at how companies are perceived with regard to climate change, the use of resources and the minimization of its carbon footprint. Social investigates perceptions of how companies lead on human rights, their participation in their local communities and how they handle employees and customers. Governance relates to the leadership, ethics and rights of shareholders and other stakeholders.

Access the full report here.

The Global RepTrak® 100 ranking is based on 68,577 respondents collected across the 15 largest economies globally using online surveys.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter