A study released this week by the company for which I toil -- Hill & Knowlton -- lends some perspective on the place of corporate reputation in the mindset of MBA students at leading business schools around the world. As next generation business leaders, many of these students will shape the operations and values of companies -- and countries -- globally over the next ten years.
There is lots to comment on in the study, and I will use up a couple of posts, and possibly your patience, to explore a few of the ideas that pop up as I reflect on the data.
But one concern raised in a Business Week article yesterday has to be put to rest very quickly. The article is titled "Green Isn't Gold for MBAs" and it makes the point that "A company's record on environment issues ranked at the bottom of factors MBAs are using to select employers".
Not surprising really since most of the students identify their preferred jobs as being in financial services and consulting, industries not known to be challenged too much by environmental issues. And they are, like all students, mostly interested in money, quality of management, employee talent, career opportunities and workplace environment.
However, when asked a question about what factors are most important when assessing the corporate social responsibility of a company, "Understands and seeks to reduce its environmental impact" ranks second only to "Treats its employees well", and well ahead of, for example, "Is fair to shareholders with good corporate governance" in their assessment.
This may help explain why when asked earlier in the survey whether the reputations of specific industry sectors make them more or less interested in working there, MBAs rank chemicals, alcohol, pharmaceuticals and oil and gas at the bottom, just higher than tobacco. Given the heavy recruiting done by these companies, and the job opportunities available in them, perceived environmental footprint may be a factor in the negative reaction.
Worth thinking about.