In Woolies we still trust

Despite taking a publicity knock earlier this year for allegedly copying the packaging of a Frankies’ soft drinks, Woolworths has the best reputation among South Africa’s top companies.

Admiration of, and trust in, the retailer is on a par with that achieved by international giants such as Google, Apple and BMW.

This was revealed by the Reputation Institute, an international reputation-management consultancy, which released its 2012 RepTrak Pulse survey this week.

The survey, in January and February, canvassed more than 1 300 people in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. They were asked to rate the top 20 JSE-listed companies in categories such as admiration, respect and trust.

Woolworths scored 78.59% and the rest were all scored less than 70% – including last year’s top-scoring companies MTN, Old Mutual and Standard Bank.

Dominik Heil, the institute’s managing director in South Africa, said the scores were low.

“This year’s collective drop in reputation represents a serious erosion in the trust and emotional bond that South African companies used to enjoy with the economically active public,” said Heil.

But he said studies on corporate reputations around the world indicated that people were “losing confidence in the sector overall”.

The institute said that a lack of visible business leadership in South Africa was the main contributor to the decline in confidence.

Woolworths also took the top spot in the governance (68.62%) and leadership categories (74.53%).

The company’s CEO, Ian Moir, was described as well-respected and having a positive influence on the company.

At the beginning of the year, Woolworths was ordered to withdraw all its soft-drink packaging carrying the phrase “good old-fashioned” after the small soft drinks company, Frankies, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that Woolworths was plagiarising its “retro” branding.

“The Frankies debacle happened before the research was conducted and demonstrates that Woolworths still comes out very well. This demonstrates that people are more willing to give the benefit of the doubt when a company has a good reputation,” said Heil.

Woolworths’ reputation in South Africa was on par with that of the most liked companies such as Google, Apple, Walt Disney and BMW, he said.

CEO Moir said Woolworths was “delighted” by the results of the survey.

“This is a remarkable achievement that would not have been possible without the support of our loyal customers and dedicated employees. We are grateful to both.”

Source: TimesLive

The Reputation Institute 2012 survey shows South Africans are losing confidence in the leadership in the private sector. Great. Now we can start to have the kind of robust debate this country and the world so badly needs about the true purpose of business. And hopefully this will amount to something important and meaningful…..

Insightful commentary by Walter Baets, the director of the UCT Graduate School of Business.