Eco-Advantage Blog

March 15, 2007 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

Worth Admiring

When I saw the cover of Fortune’s latest issue trumpeting America’s Most Admired companies, I noticed right away that the top three — GE, Starbucks, Toyota — are very much known for being green (or at the very least, talking about it a lot). I was all ready to make this most brilliant of points here…but then I read the article and it covers this ground much better than I could. In fact, it focuses nearly exclusively on the green aspects of the leaders. As the opening paragraph says,

“The three Most Admired Companies this year are building their growth at least partly on strategies and products aimed at helping preserve the planet.”

Author Anne Fisher goes on to say that Wal-Mart, after what was a rough year in many ways, probably held on to a top 20 ranking “thanks in some measure to its new green strategy.”

Believe it or not, I actually think this article is a bit overstated — I would love to believe reputation is so tightly linked to environmental practice, but I’m not sure we’re there yet. But, even if I’m right, let me just say…Wow, have things changed.

Not that long ago, a company that was trying to do right by the planet would have generally been pummeled in a businessperson’s ranking. All that really mattered for business reputation was size, profits, and maybe some aspect of execution (like great customer service or innovative products). Fisher even points out that the list used to just be the biggest. So this brings up one seemingly glaring omission from the top 10 — ExxonMobil. This company made more money last year than any company in history. Fisher doesn’t say it, but by her logic, one could argue that Exxon was not at the top because it has struggled with green issues. (To be fair, Exxon still tops its own industry ranking, which jibes perfectly with one curious result from the survey of environmental execs we ran at the start of the research phase for Green to Gold — every respondent in the oil & gas industry named Exxon an underrated company on environmental issues…which makes you wonder what they all know…but that’s for another time.)

So reputation is now linked with responsible business practice. Amazing. The Green Wave gathers steam…



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