Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work Reveal Two Surprise Winners (Part I)

Recently, Glassdoor announced its seventh annual Employees’ Choice Awards, honoring the Best (Large) Places to Work 2015.  Winners were determined by the people who know these companies best — their employees.  Glassdoor also has the same list but for smaller companies with 1,000 or fewer employees. These companies are not the focus of this website as most are privately-owned entities.

This website has always emphasized those companies who treat their employees well.  Many readers are familiar with Fortune magazine’s lists such as Fortune 500, 40 Under 40, and 100 Best Places to Work.  However, with the growth of eMedia, firms like Glassdoor have grown more popular.

Glassdoor also publishes lists on the 50 Highest Rated CEOs, Top 25 Companies for Culture & Values and Top 25 Companies for Compensation & Benefits. Glassdoor is also a great database for employees and job seekers to see what it’s like to work at specific companies. Think of Yelp for job seekers.

For 2015, Google earned the top ranking as the Best Place to work.  Of course, there are no surprises here for Google and for several other companies on the list including: Bain & Co., Proctor & Gamble, Facebook, McKinsey and Qualcomm.

This list is a great starting point to find great companies for Socially Responsible Investing (“SRI”). However, we emphasize the words “starting point” because this is NOT an SRI list and sometimes unexpected companies appear.  This was the case in 2015 with appearances by two petrochemical companies Chevron and Eastman Chemical. Common wisdom takes one aback hearing these two names.  In fact, foundations such as Rockefeller are beginning to divest all investments in hydrocarbon industries.  Though since Chevron and Eastman Chemical made the cut, we believe they’re entitled to a closer look.

Out of a list of all the surveyed companies in both the United States and United Kingdom, Chevron managed to make it to 6th place.  That’s a very high ranking so we looked at the comments on Glassdoor.  But first a background of the company – Chevron Corporation (ticker: CVX) is an American multinational energy corporation. One of the successor companies of Standard Oil, it is headquartered in San Ramon, California, and active in more than 180 countries. Chevron is engaged in every aspect of the oil, gas, and geothermal energy industries, including exploration and production; refining, marketing and transport; chemicals manufacturing and sales; and power generation (Source: Wikipedia). (One can not help but notice the irony of the Rockefeller Foundation selling-off its energy portfolio as Chevron itself was part of the 33 smaller companies split from the original Standard Oil, which was founded by John D. Rockefeller.)

There was a total of 703 reviews of the company on Glassdoor’s website, so at first glance we know this was no fluke rating based on a dozen or fewer interviews. Chevron was rated 4.1 out of 5 (higher the better) and an off-the-chart 96% of employees approve of CEO John S. Watson. Nearly 90% of surveyed employees say they would recommend their employer to a friend. Sample comments from a former employee are below:

Unfortunately, we believe the company has its share of issues that prevent us from adding Chevron to a SRI list. We checked other SRI lists for Chevron’s name, but the company rarely made it to those lists, let alone the Top 10. An important database called CSRHub also gave it below-average rankings.  CSRHub is a large database of corporate social responsibility ratings and information for users including investment management firms. However, what concerned us deeply were the significant number of “Special Issues” or red-flags that CSRHub cited.  These included being involved in Sudan, Pesticides, Pollutants, Fracking, Coal, Burma, Animal Testing, not being sensitive to Gays and Lesbians.  Just to ensure that we didn’t err excluding Chevron from SRI, we Googled Chevron and found several negative articles including some accusing the company of “Greenwashing.”

This concludes Part I of our analysis.  Next time we will focus on Eastman Chemical Corporation (EMN).

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