Demystifying corporate citizenship rankings and indices


The seemingly inexhaustible list of ratings, rankings, and indices can puzzle even the most seasoned corporate citizenship professionals. They are as varied as the industry itself—from the Best Corporate Citizens and the Best Places to Work lists to the Environmental Performance Index. Through them, a company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impacts and efforts are ranked and reported to large audiences—affecting both internal and external audience perceptions. As a company’s brand and reputation continues to be one of its most important intangible assets, contributing to up to 80 percent of a firm’s market value[i], understanding what CSR and sustainability rankings genuinely report about a company is vital.

To begin, you must decide the level to which you’d like to engage in rating and rankings based on your own time and resource constraints, as different indices require different levels of involvement from the company. Many of these lists simply scan the available information to generate the rankings, others require that companies proactively seek out recognition. In the first case, a company can control only the information it makes publicly available, and ensure it communicates honestly and regularly about its efforts. However, when there is an application process, how can a company decide where to best direct its resources and efforts?

A first step is to identify the company’s strengths, weaknesses, goals, and peers. Asking the right questions frames your approach to decision making. The below questions have been designed to help you to determine where your company is, where you might or should go, and why you will or will not pursue a particular recognition or acknowledgment.


  • What are your company’s short- and long- term goals, priorities, and/or focus areas?  Focus your attention on those lists or rankings that match your aspirational position. For example, if you’d like to be a leader in green technology, the Newsweek Green Rankings might deserve your attention now.
  • Is your company publicly traded or privately held? Some lists exclude private companies.


  • Is your focus regional, national, international, or a mix of all three? Concentrate on lists that match this audience. Forbes’ lists are nationally recognized, but a ranking in a smaller market might be more relevant to your audiences.


  • What corporate citizenship issues does your company champion? For example, if human rights is an important priority, identify lists such as the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI).
  • Who are your key stakeholders and where are they active? Are they already familiar with lists like the Fortune Change the World list, Best Companies to Work For, or Working Mother 100 Best Companies?


  • What is your level of transparency regarding corporate citizenship measures? Is information readily available for the general public to access? Some lists are not application based, but rather rely on publicly available information on your website or citizenship report and then verify the information with the company.

To further unmask the rankings and indices cluttering the corporate citizenship space, join us for our upcoming webinar on July 11, 2018. Participants will gain a deeper understanding of the methodology and value behind a myriad of rankings and indices, and hear from member companies CBRE and Lam Research about their own methodology and strategy behind their communication and reputational considerations.

UPDATE: This webinar has already aired; Members may view it here for free and non-members may purchase it here for $99


  • Jennifer Leitsch, Director of Corporate Responsibility, CBRE
  • Stewart Rassier, Director, Executive Education and Advisory Products, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship
  • Chris Schwarz, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing and Communications, Lam Research

[i] Ocean Tomo. (2018). Intangible asset market value study. Retrieved from