Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Distinguishing between Good and Bad Corporations

Today the New York Times reported that stockholders voted against a $15 million pay package for Citigroup's chief executive, Vikram Pandit. "C.E.O.'s deserve good pay, but there's good pay and there's obscene pay." quipped Brian Wenzinger a principal at Aronson Johnson Ortiz, a money management company that voted against the pay package.

So, does that make Aronson Johnson Ortiz or Citigroup "good" corporations? Hardly. But it does indicate a fissure or an opportunity to influence corporate behavior.

More interestingly today several corporate donors pulled back from supporting the right wing lobby groups, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Rifle Association (NRA). They were McDonald's, Wendy's, Intuit, Mars, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Again, does that make these corporations "good"?

Maybe not but maybe we could refine the criteria suggested in my February 12, 2012 post and begin to think of a continuum of "good" to "bad" corporations. Most would, of course, be somewhere in between.

Amended guide or point system for judging "good" corporations - the more points the better the corporation:

1) Make something of value or provide a service of value - up to 5 points

2) Have a workforce that is unionized or in some sort of worker ownership arrangement - up to 5 points

3) Is small, locally owned - up to 2 points

4) Is Transparent and accountable to the public - up to 2 points

5) Does something - a single event or press release in any of the above categories - up to 1 point

So far here is a list:

Southwest Airlines - 7 points (4 points for being unionized and having a worker/ownership plan, 2 points for doing something useful and 1 point for being open and transparent.)

Apple - 4 points (3 points for making something useful and 1 point for being responsive to worker conditions in China)

Starbucks - 3-1/2 points (1 points for making something useful, 2 point for practicing a kind of moral capitalism including buying sustainably grown coffee and 1/2 point for their recent support for same-sex marriage

McDonalds - 3-1/2 points (2 points for making something useful, 1 point for deciding to buy organic potatoes and 1/2 point for ceasing to fund ALEC and the NRA)

Kitsap Bank (Olympic Peninsula) - 2 points (1 point for being small and local and 1 point for being transparent and accountable to the community and customers)

Goldman Sachs - 0 points

Bank of America - 0 points

Obviously this will take a lot of work but at least it might give us a measure to use in evaluating a corporation's actions, policies or contributions to causes or politicians and it might help us in determining how to work with or against certain corporations.