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Unilever comes out top in corporate responsibility rating

By Jess Halliday , 17-Mar-2010

A new ranking of major food and beverage companies by their corporate social responsibility is published today, with Unilever, Nestle and Danone occupying the top three spots.

The Tomorrow’s Value Rating was launched by consultancy Two Tomorrows in September 2009, and investigates the activities of the top ten companies in a given sector by the corporate responsibility activities reported in company materials, including annual reports, websites, and regulatory filings.

It scored the food and beverage top ten as follows:

  • Unilever 64%
  • Nestlé 59%
  • Danone 58%
  • PepsiCo 51%
  • Coca Cola 49%
  • AB-InBev 46%
  • Kraft 46%
  • Heineken 39%
  • Tyson 28%
  • Kirin Holdings 23%

Alex Nichols, senior consultant at Two Tomorrows, told Food Navigator.com that the rating is “a lens to look at the future”. It characterises and synthesises the contribution the sector is making, and gives insight into the key issues and strategies for tackling them.

It is also a way for the consultancy to contribute to the debate, whilst bringing attention to the expertise of its team in advising firms on ways they can improve their practices and reporting.

The summary report, available today on the Tomorrow’s Value Rating website , does not list all the criteria but more details of the findings will be made available to the individual companies if requested.

Unilever came out top as it was seen to have shown leadership through the initiatives it has co-founded, like the Marine Stewardship Council and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. It was also an early supporter of fair trade, an earlier adopter of nutritional labelling on products, and improved on important variables like carbon emissions and water usage over recent years.

At Unilever, responsibility is based on stakeholder feedback, governed by senior leaders at the company.

Nichols said the consultants apply a common approach to a diversity of material issues. Scores are calculated using a scoring system that ranks acknowledgement of issues and response on a scale of 0, 0.5 or 1.

“Our analysts are seasoned CR professionals whose judgement will also be applied when real-world complexities present themselves.”

He said that while there are some ‘laggards’ with only limited awareness of sustainability challenges, “most food and beverage companies are now very aware of the major social and environmental issues that impact global supply chains, and therefore there business”.

Indeed, supply chain resilience in the face of challenges like climate change and water shortages is amongst the priorities Nichols identifies. Another is responsible marketing, which stretches from alcohol sales, to product safety, labelling of fat, sugar and salt content, and marketing to kids.

He said that a sector-level change is ahead, and drew parallels with sports clothing firm Nike, which has successfully distanced its brand from stories of sweat shop exploitation ten years ago.

The food and beverage sector is the fifth Two Tomorrows has tackled, after hotels, energy, information and communication technology, oil and gas, and Silicon Valley.

The Tomorrow’s Value Rating summary report is available online at www.tomorrowsvaluerating.com/Page/FoodandBeverage

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