Lego has topped a list of the world's most reputable companies for the fourth year in a row, according to an annual survey, closely followed by Disney, with both firms appearing in the top 10 every year since 2011.
Innovation, investment in staff training and a focus on quality have helped them maintain their good reputations, according to the Reputation Institute, which surveyed more than 80,000 people in 15 countries for its Global RepTrak study, published Tuesday.
The study asked people about how they perceived a company, including their products, governance, leadership, financial performance, how innovative they are and their "citizenship," or how they behave as a business in wider society.
Lego and Disney scored well in terms of their products and services. "They're doing the best in matters of innovation and being able to adapt year over year (and) expand their product offerings," according to Isadora Levy, the Reputation Institute's director of marketing insights, who spoke to CNBC. Levy credited Disney's move into streaming and Lego's shift to plant-based or recycled bricks by 2030 as examples of how they are meeting consumers' demands.
Disney also fared well because of its investment in education: In 2018, it put $50 million into staff training, including funding higher education and vocational courses.
Notably absent from the top 10 are Google and Apple, which came first and second respectively when the survey began in 2011. Google featured in the top 10 every year until 2018, while Apple has been ranked five times in 10 years.
Google was among the tech companies that pioneered workplace perks — such as free meals, nap pods and public speaking classes — and is still highly reputable, according to Levy, but has fallen out of favour somewhat due to the rise of employee activism.
"With the rise of this questioning of transparency within the organization, with how they treat third-party vendors or people that interact in their supply chain, minimum wage… the whole theme around the workplace has shifted and we began looking at these big tech companies with more scrutiny," Levy said.
She added that how a company treats employees drives the conversation around reputation, which explains why — although Google is still reputable — is not in the top 10.
In November, Google fired four people it said had violated confidentiality policies, news of which went viral because the employees had organized or participated in protests against the company. And in August, senators urged it to make contractors permanent after six months.
Another notable brand on the list is Adidas, which has appeared in the top 10 for the past four years. It comes in at eighth place, way ahead of Nike, which comes 30th. Nike's reputation has fallen since the Reputation Institute's 2019 survey, which could be due to its attention-grabbing advertising such as its Emmy-winning "Dream Crazy" ad starring Colin Kaepernick. "Taking a stance will enhance your reputation among consumers that believe in you and have a negative effect on consumers who might not agree with that stance," Levy stated.
This year's top 10 all manage to balance elements such as financial performance with corporate responsibility, Levy added. "If we look at the top 10 in this year, we really have a list of companies with decades and decades of heritage. They're all very deeply rooted in the history."