Eighty-five of the top 100 global companies focus more on profit than people. Probably.
The biggest company in the world, Apple, doesn’t mention ‘wellbeing’ once in its annual report. Sixty-five of the top 100 global companies don’t mention ‘coaching’ in theirs.
These are just three of the many fascinating facts pulled from a 125-page interrogative report – ‘Shocking Statistics & Revealing Ratios from the Top 100 Global Companies’ – on where the top 100 global companies put their focus. Is it people or profit?
The debate has been discussed in the HR world time and time again, so we decided to delve deeper with a fresh new perspective using annual reports. It’s something every company does every year, and gives a good all-round insight of a company’s focus.
Using PwC’s Global Top 100 list, we searched their annual reports for ‘people’ and ‘profit’ words to peer behind their walls. We devised a ratio for each company based on the number of people or profit word mentions. This gave us our top spot holder: Roche Holding, with a ratio of 1:0.3, and our last place: Samsung, with a ratio of 1:7.1 (it mentions profit words seven times more than people words). As you can see, there’s a huge difference company to company on the balance of people versus profit focus.
We also looked at how these companies addressed topical issues in their 2021 annual reports, including sustainability, wellbeing, and mental health. Spoiler – some simply didn’t address them at all!
A noteworthy theme in many of the annual reports that we didn’t set out to find was the disparity between the values companies extol in outward communication, and the focus of their annual reports. Often their people to profit ratio would lean heavily towards profit, and yet the companies have a motto that focuses on people. Facebook is a key example of this – the company was built on ‘connecting people’ yet its annual report has a strong profit focus.
This was particularly interesting when combined with the knowledge that potential employees do, in fact, read the annual report of a company before interviews. Are companies doing themselves a disservice by allowing prospective talent to think they gloss over crucial issues such as mental health, by simply not including them in their annual report?
In one section we used global comparisons. This is where we compared two like-for-like companies. For example, we put Costco and Walmart head to head. Whilst Costco came out on top, it seems both companies could do with balancing their focus more.
Similarly, PepsiCo is really shown up by Coca-Cola, which mentions profit words four times less than its rival. Plus, we had to take a look at the oldest grocery battle: Unilever versus Procter & Gamble versus Nestlé. Their people to profit ratios span from 1:1.4 to 1:2.2 to 1:3.9 respectively. Nestlé seems very imbalanced with 3.9, while Unilever has a more balanced 1.4.
After 18 months of research, my hope now is that annual reports can more closely mirror their company culture, focus and ethos. Or that the company culture improves – which then, in turn, is mirrored in the annual report.
One thing to leave you with: of the five trillion-dollar companies on the planet, four didn’t mention mental health once. Shocking!