Wegmans, Publix Super Markets, Amazon, Tesla And USAA Draw Top Social Responsibility Scores In Harris Poll

Consumers Split on Whether Companies Developing CSR Programs Are Motivated by Doing What’s Right– or by PR and Image Possibilities

Generations View Companies’ Social Responsibility Efforts Differently: Telsa, Publix and Amazon Lead Among Millennials While Baby Boomers Say Wegmans, General Mills and Southwest Airlines Are Tops

Millennials More Likely to Influence Friends’ Perceptions Based on How a Company Conducts Itself; Also More Likely to Avoid Doing Business With a Company Due to Data Privacy Concerns


NEW YORK – U.S. consumers rate Wegmans, Publix Super Markets, Amazon.com, Tesla Motors and USAA as the top companies for corporate social responsibility efforts, according to findings from The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient (RQ), which has identified movement, trends and insights in a changing corporate reputation landscape for the past 18 years. Other companies receiving “excellent” corporate social responsibility ratings are Lowe’s, UPS and L.L. Bean.

Monsanto, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs garnered “critical” corporate social responsibility marks in the Harris Poll study, which asked more than 23,000 consumers to rate the 100 most visible companies in the U.S. on social responsibility attributes such as: supports good causes, environmental responsibility and community responsibility.

“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.”


The Harris Poll 2017 Reputation Quotient

Top and Bottom 10 Social Responsibility Rankings

Among the 100 Most Visible Companies 

Top 10

Bottom 10

1. Wegmans 

91. AIG 

2. Publix Super Markets

92. Bank of America

3. Amazon.com

93. Volkswagen Group

4. Tesla Motors

94. ExxonMobil


95. BP

6. Lowe’s

96. Takata

7. UPS

97. Halliburton

8. L.L. Bean

98. Goldman Sachs

9. Walt Disney Company

99. Wells Fargo & Company

10. Whole Foods Market

100. Monsanto


Few Companies Excel in Social Responsibility

Only eight of the 100 companies measured achieved “excellent” CSR ratings this year; while this is the most ever in the 18 years Harris Poll has measured CSR as a major dimension of corporate reputation, it falls far from expectations. Last year, four companies received “excellent” social responsibility ratings; in 2010, zero companies. This year marks Publix Super Markets’ third consecutive year with an “excellent” social responsibility rating and it is Wegmans’ second time in the category. USAA has achieved “excellent” ratings three times overall, and it’s the second consecutive year for USAA and Amazon. Companies making their “excellent” social responsibility rating debuts are Tesla, Lowe’s, UPS and L.L. Bean.

“Achieving an excellent social responsibility rating is a high bar,” said Gstalder. “It wasn’t that many years ago when we didn’t see any companies attain this level of recognition for their efforts. So while this progress is a testament to how much more active some companies are in their CSR endeavors, it also demonstrates how much more work is needed.”

Largest Gains, Steepest Declines

Volkswagen Group, plagued by an emissions scandal in 2016, shows signs of recovery, with its social responsibility score improving 7.9 points to a score of 57.7. While still a “poor” social responsibility rating, the company’s score is the largest increase in 2017. Hobby Lobby (+7.3), Capital One Financial Corporation (+7.1), Burger King (+6.7), Toyota Motor Corporation (+6.2), 21st Century Fox (+5.5) and Prudential Financial (+5.3) also made notable social responsibility gains.

Wells Fargo, dealing with reputation fallout from its fake accounts scandal, experienced the largest drop, falling 19 points to a “critical” score while Bank of America (-8.4), Samsung (-6.8), Procter & Gamble Co. (-6.1) and Goldman Sachs (-5.8) also showed marked social responsibility declines.

Most Important CSR Issues

According to Harris Poll’s research, employee treatment (39%), ethics (38%) and respectful treatment of customers (35%) are the most important corporate social responsibility issues, followed by providing affordable and accessible products and services (29%) and safety (28%).

“Consider corporate reputation crises in recent memory – Wells Fargo, Mylan, Samsung, Volkswagen and Takata – and it makes sense that we see employee treatment, ethics, providing affordable products, and safety on top of consumers’ minds,” said Wendy Salomon, vice president of reputation management and public affairs at The Harris Poll. “Although the poll was conducted before United Airlines’ passenger issue, respectful treatment of customers was already among the top social responsibility matters vital to consumers. Given the magnitude of attention about United’s scandal, how companies show respect to customers is something consumers will continue to watch very closely.”

Consumers Split on Companies’ Social Responsibility Motivations

Forty-five percent of consumers agree that companies develop corporate social responsibility programs because it is the role they believe they should play as leaders in their communities and is primarily motivated by their responsibility to do what’s right. Conversely, 40 percent of consumers say that when companies develop corporate social responsibility activities, they only do so to bolster their image and are primarily motivated by publicity possibilities; they are not truly focused on the effectiveness of their social responsibility efforts.

“Not only is it important to act in a socially responsible manner, but companies’ actions must be authentic and true to your company’s values,” said Salomon. “Fake it and consumers see right through your ulterior motives, risking negative marks against your corporate reputation.”

Companies’ Social Responsibility Rankings by Generation

When reviewing social responsibility rankings by generation, differences are apparent:

The Harris Poll 2017 Reputation Quotient

Top Social Responsibility Ratings

Among the 100 Most Visible Companies by Generation

Excellent Social Responsibility Rating According to Millennials

Excellent Social Responsibility Rating According to Baby Boomers

1. Tesla Motors 

1. Wegmans 

2. Publix Super Markets

2. General Mills

3. Amazon.com

3. Southwest Airlines

4. UPS

4. Amazon.com



6. Wegmans

6. The Coca-Cola Company

7. Whole Foods Market

7. Publix Super Markets

8. State Farm Insurance

8. Lowe’s

9. Berkshire Hathaway

9. Kellogg Company

10. Johnson & Johnson

10. UPS

11. American Express

11. The Walt Disney Company

12. Walgreens

13. Mondelez International

Winning Over Millennials

According to Harris Poll’s study, compared to baby boomers, millennials are significantly more likely to proactively try to influence family and friends’ perceptions about a company because of something they learned about how the company conducts itself. Forty-one percent of millennials say they do this, up from 37 percent in 2016, and considerably higher than the 25 percent of baby boomers who say they do this. Also noteworthy: more than half (51%) of millennials say they have participated in a conversation with others (in person or online) about how a company conducts itself.

Similarly, while both millennials (69%) and baby boomers (82%) are concerned about the increasing amount of personal information companies capture about their customers, more millennials (46%) than baby boomers (36%) have decided not to do business with or not purchase products from a company because they were concerned about how their personal information was protected.

“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 Salomon. “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.”

Millennials and Boomers Differ on Support for Companies’ Expansion Efforts

Harris Poll’s research shows that when asked if they would welcome expansion of companies in their communities, millennials are more likely to say they would definitely or probably welcome expansion from technology companies, while baby boomers tend to welcome more established companies. Companies that ranked at the bottom of millennials list for expansion tend to be in the fast food industry or automotive manufacturing.

“Knowing which companies consumers tend to welcome in their backyards is a fantastic depiction of how a company’s CSR efforts translates into real business events,” said Salomon. “Acting responsible and creating social value is not a fad or the movement of the moment. It’s a real opportunity to strengthen your business that will matter when you need it most.”


The 2017 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient was conducted online in English, among 23,633 U.S. respondents from November 29 – December 16, 2016, with preliminary nominating waves of research conducted among 4,092 respondents from September 13 -15 and October 4 – 6, 2016.

The Annual RQ study begins with a Nomination Phase, which is used to identify the companies with the most “visible” reputations. All respondents are asked, unaided, to name companies that stand out as having the best and worst reputations. Online nominations are summed to create a total number of nominations for each company. The final list of the 100 most visible companies in the U.S. is measured in the RQ Ratings Phase. In the ratings phase, respondents are randomly assigned to rate two of the companies with which they are “very” or “somewhat” familiar.  After the first company rating is completed, the respondent is given the option to rate the second company. Companies are rated on their reputation on 20 different attributes that comprise the Reputation Quotient instrument. The attributes are grouped into six different reputation dimensions: Emotional Appeal, Financial Performance, Products and Services, Social Responsibility, Vision and Leadership, and Workplace Environment.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll and sample partner surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in an online panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About the Reputation Quotient

The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient (RQ), an established annual measure of the understanding of corporate reputation in America since 1999, identifies movement, trends and insights in a changing corporate reputation landscape. It quantifies reputation ratings for the 100 most visible companies in the U.S., as perceived by the general public. A trusted baseline for understanding and managing corporate reputation and identifying new market risks and opportunities, the RQ measures companies’ reputation strength based on the perceptions of more than 23,000 Americans across six corporate reputation dimensions: Social Responsibility, Emotional Appeal, Products and Services, Vision and Leadership, Financial Performance, and Workplace Environment. The Harris Poll 2017 Reputation Quotient Summary Report can be found at www.theharrispoll.com/reputation-quotient/.

About The Harris Poll
Over the last five decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods.

The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient results disclosed in this press release may not be used for advertising, marketing or promotional purposes without the prior written consent of Harris Poll.