The Ask Afrika Trust Barometer is the preferred local corporate reputation and trust benchmark. It is currently in its fifth year running, and is based on an expert panel of 200 telephonic interviews with CEOs, EXCO and senior managers reporting directly to the EXCO of JSE-listed companies.
Business leaders spontaneously mention three companies (except their own) that they believe are the most trusted in South Africa. They also rate these companies based on various trust and reputation drivers. Among others, respondents from a number of companies such as Standard Bank, Pick n Pay, Massmart Holdings, and BHP Billiton participated in this year`s Trust Barometer.
The Trust Barometer identifies the most trusted company, the most trusted CEO, the most trusted black-owned and managed company, the most trusted asset-management company and, for the first time ever, the top green company this year.
Corporate reputation and trust
The winners were awarded at an annual conference at The Venue, Melrose Arch, at which the Trust Barometer results are announced and various speakers deliver their views on corporate reputation and trust. Reputation and trust have become increasingly important in the business sphere.
The King III Report released earlier this year emphasised the importance of reputation management, and the role that corporate citizenship plays in reputation management. The triple bottom line can have a tremendous impact on reputation, and therefore companies have responsibilities – over and above their financial targets – towards society and the environment (King III, 2009).
Environmental awareness is becoming a business imperative rather than another marketing tool. Becoming a green company is, however, easier said than done in developing countries. With the immense social burdens and responsibilities that South Africa is facing, as well as a strong economic focus necessitated by the world-wide recession, it is expected that the environment will be at the short end of sustainable development.
The Target Group Index SA [TGI SA] data (based on 14 222 responses from the South African public) indicated that many consumers are prepared to spend more on green products. South Africans have also internalised the importance of conserving electricity, although this could be a result of load shedding experienced in the country.
The media, and various different news sources, report that the most reputable companies are making excellent progress in improving their citizenship duties. This is confirmed by a high correlation between going green and overall reputation indicated by this year`s Trust Barometer.
The Trust Barometer 2009 incorporated these insights to enhance the applicability of the benchmark and, at the same time, evaluate whether these aspects really have a significant impact on the reputation of a company. Companies need to treat corporate social responsibility and investment as integral parts of doing business, and not as `nice to have`. (King III, 2009).
Based on this, special focus was placed on how corporate citizenship impacts on reputation and, even more importantly, in determining how directors view and interpret sustainability – a cornerstone of corporate citizenship and a good reputation.
The Trust Barometer indicated that companies that incorporate green values are significantly correlated with many advantageous reputation attributes, and can have an impact on a company`s overall reputation score.
Top green companies
Nedbank was rated as this year’s ‘greenest’ company, followed by Woolworths in second place. These companies are most deserving of their positions as their commitment to the environment cleverly combined with PR messages has delivered very positive results.
Directors’ view on sustainability as proven by literature, companies need to more attentive to how they run business, and whether they focus on the environment and society, above that of their financial targets.
Sustainability is often seen as a great part of corporate citizenship, yet confusion still exists about whether sustainability refers to a company that practices financial responsibility or to one that practices environmental and social responsibility, or a healthy combination of the two.
The Trust Barometer aimed at explaining these aspects and found that South African directors predominantly understand sustainability as being financial responsibility. The Ask Afrika Trust Barometer 2009 provided valuable insights into trust, reputation and arising business trends such as corporate citizenship. Going green is becoming a business strategy, and not a marketing gimmick.