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Fool Awards: Most Socially Responsible Company

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Socially responsible investing can be controversial, not to mention a little mushy when weighing criteria to judge corporations' attributes. But one thing's for sure: These crazy days outline why socially responsible companies can make good investments. After all, they're doing things right, and it stands to reason that many companies have been doing some seriously socially irresponsible things lately.

Depending on where you look, organizations' lists of top socially responsible companies can differ. For example, the "100 Best Corporate Citizens of 2008" list from The CRO (previously Business Ethics magazine) named Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) the top dog, while Fortune's roster of the most socially responsible companies has International Paper (NYSE: IP  ) at the top of the heap.

Still, some companies are universally recognized as socially responsible. They're the ones that have captured the public's imagination with the SRI attributes strongly linked to their brands and corporate missions -- and these companies clearly meant it to work out that way. So, with companies like that in mind, we present our Foolish nominees:

  • Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  )
  • Chipotle (NYSE: CMG  )
  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  )
  • Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI  )
  • Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR  )

Starbucks: The coffee giant has great benefits for its employee partners, including health-care coverage. It's also been very aware of the needs of small coffee farmers through its CAFE initiative, and it tries to do business in an environmentally aware manner, through actions such as reducing waste with recycled paper sleeves instead of double-cupping. Starbucks has been included in The CRO's "100 Best Corporate Citizens" list for all of the nine years the list has been compiled.

Chipotle: Chipotle puts natural, organic ingredients in its burritos as part of its "Food With Integrity" program, and it also uses sour cream from dairy that's free of artificial growth hormones. For people who like to eat with ethics in mind, Chipotle's a relatively guilt-free fast-food treat. The company also provides health benefits, a 401(K) plan, and paid vacation time for its employees.

Google: "Don't be evil" is just the tip of the iceberg for Big G. The company is well known for its employee perks and benefits. In addition, Google makes high-profile environmental efforts, including its goal to be a carbon-neutral company. Its philanthropic arm,, was created to find ways to fight climate change, poverty, and emerging diseases. 

Whole Foods Market: Whole Foods is yet another company that keeps employee needs in mind, with caps on management compensation, an open-book policy on pay, and benefits that workers can vote on. Its mission to provide organic and natural foods is heavy on environmental awareness -- it was in the vanguard of companies seeking to reduce the use of plastic bags -- and it carries out a myriad of other green initiatives. It has also created non-profit organizations: the Animal Compassion Foundation and the Whole Planet Foundation.  

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters: Like Starbucks, Green Mountain has been a longtime proponent of sustainability, support of coffee growers, environmental initiatives, and good treatment of employees. It was a veteran of The CRO's "100 Best Corporate Citizens" list, too -- it made No. 1 in 2007 -- until the list began focusing solely on large-cap companies.

So, which one of these candidates do you think is the most socially responsible company? Vote for your choice below.

See the rest of our Fool Awards nominees.

Starbucks and Intel are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google and Chipotle Mexican Grill are Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks. Whole Foods Market and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market and Starbucks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (41)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2009, at 10:20 AM, gfcfmom wrote:

    It is great the Whole Foods exists but a lot of their food is not healthy and contains MSG and food additives. Recently a bunch of people got sick from Gluten Free food that contained gluten.

    They could do better. Trader Joe's does better. You are better off with Green Mountain or Chipolte IMO.

  • Report this Comment On January 14, 2009, at 10:44 PM, culorico wrote:

    who cares!

  • Report this Comment On January 14, 2009, at 10:50 PM, culorico wrote:

    Climate Change??? Get real, REAL REAL. Back in the '70s it was ZPG remember that? Zero population growth. You will never get climate change if you do not reverse population growth! 200 Million people in the USA in 1970, Over 350 million now not counting illegal alien which did not inhabit the USA then because of the gold standard. Too many people. Worse in Russia, China, India. We do not need more generations of overpopulations! To stop the climate change, stop the proliferation of people. Sterilize now!

  • Report this Comment On January 22, 2009, at 12:49 PM, therediris wrote:

    GFGCmom, you are totally wrong and that is the most rediculous thing I have ever heard. You don't know anything about Whole Foods market!! First of all do you know how much WFM does for the environment and our communites? Breast Cancer? Battered Women shelters? Starving children? Obviously not. The food IS healthy and are not allowed to have un-natural food additives at all in their products!! The "gluten free" products that you say got people sick was from a product that was sold from an outside vendor and it wasn't a Whole Foods Brand product.They have stopped selling that product as soon as that happened and took down all signage suggesting things are GF. AND it was NOT a bunch of was 2 people that had severe allergies and like I said those are no longer sold. SO, you should get your FACTS straight before you start running your mouth about something you don't even know. Why dont you get a life and stop bashing a company that does nothing but good things for others. Trader Joes? You have got to be kidding.

  • Report this Comment On January 31, 2009, at 9:53 AM, eekthecat wrote:

    culorico, I agree that overpopulation is a huge problem.

    However, how can you lump in Russia with China and India? They're by far the largest country in the world, and yet have a population under 200 million, and their population is actually decreasing. In Russia they talk about the population decline as a problem, and discuss ways of encouraging more births.

  • Report this Comment On February 03, 2009, at 4:03 PM, worldtraveler007 wrote:

    What a joke, Green Mountain environmentally friendly? What about the billion of plastic K-Cups that are clogging our dumps? How sustainable can they be? has their head in the sand or somewhere else..

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2009, at 6:51 PM, globalsailor wrote:

    Overpopulation is a problem myth made up by those who have no children. The world population has increased six fold in the last century and life has only gotten better. Having children encourages responsibility and spurs better economic growth. It also makes people ambitious in every possible way which spurs positive innovation in both the world economy and the world at large.

    If you want to talk about a real problem talk about the overpriced college education that made up this problem. People spend $200K on a college education and then whine about the fact that they can't pay off the debt because they didn't choose a major that could do so. Down with Art History!

  • Report this Comment On September 26, 2011, at 4:16 PM, warrenzevon wrote:

    Global Sailor apparently hasn't heard about global warming, recent food shortages, deforestation of the rainforest, or the impending fossil fuel crisis (I suppose all of these are conspiracies by, respectively, climatologists, agribusiness, toucans, and solar companies). What the @#$% do you think is the problem underlying these manifestations of limited resources and environmental degradation...hmmm, could it be overpopulation...naaah, that's crazy. Oh, and since you call yourself globalsailor, you'd think would've heard of the continent-size garbage patch of plastic waste that gathers in the southern Pacific. And for the record, I have a kid.

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