As we’ve learned over a quarter-century of publishing the Fortune World’s Most Admired Companies list, a corporate reputation is a multifaceted concept. It includes the impression you make on casual observers by producing strong results. Then there’s the more intimate esteem you earn from customers, employees, and collaborators. Sweetest of all, there’s the respect you command from competitors when they have no choice but to acknowledge that you’re great at what you do.
Our list aims to capture all of these elements (see our methodology here). Our All-Stars list ranks companies by the acclaim they win from the wider business community, including those they do business with. Meanwhile, our individual industry rankings, available online, capture that third category, the standing each company holds among rivals in its own industry.
When a company scores well on both rankings, it’s likely executing at an Olympian level, both in public and behind the scenes. Apple’s 16-year streak at No. 1 on the All-Stars list is a tribute to its historic cash-machine-like profitability and the reliability and popularity of its devices. But its top ranking in the computer industry—for the 13th time in 14 years—shows that it’s also impressing the competitors who know it best. For the industry rankings, we ask respondents to rate their peers numerically on nine specific criteria. Apple (No. 1) landed in the top 10—among all companies, in all industries—in eight of those nine categories. (Its talent clearly makes as strong an impression as its tech: “Quality of management” and “ability to attract, develop, and keep talented people” were two criteria where Apple earned top marks.) Nvidia (No. 45) and UnitedHealth Group also landed in the top 10 in eight of nine categories, and each, not coincidentally, ranked No. 1 in its industry (semiconductors and health insurance, respectively).
Other admired companies can also boast a history of dominance. This year marks the 10th straight top ranking for Accenture (No. 32) in IT services. Starbucks (No. 14) (food services) and BlackRock (No. 25) (securities/asset management) topped their industries for the 11th consecutive year; U.S. [hotlin k ignore=true]Bancorp[/hotlink] (superregional banks) and UnitedHealth collected their 13th blue ribbons in a row. In entertainment, turmoil and turnover in the CEO’s office didn’t stop Walt Disney (No. 6) from claiming its 20th straight No. 1 ranking. And Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (No. 4) has topped the property and casualty insurance industry every year since 1998.
Elsewhere, competition led to changes at the top of the podium. In home equipment, Haier Smart Home, a Chinese competitor to Google’s Nest and Amazon (No. 2), made its debut at No. 1. In medical equipment, Thermo Fisher Scientific, provider of gear, material, and software to the world’s laboratories, took the top spot. And Motorola Solutions earned the No. 1 ranking in network and communications equipment.
Some past winners reclaimed their crowns after brief absences. Home Depot (No. 20) took the No. 1 spot in specialty retailing for the first time since 2019. And Occidental Petroleum earned the top rank in mining/crude oil production after a two-year absence—a bit of vindication after a stretch in which CEO Vicki Hollub’s acquisitions and green-tech strategies drew criticism from activist investors. Occidental’s biggest shareholder? Berkshire Hathaway. Evidently, some admired companies really admire each other.
These 5 companies have made the All-Stars list every year since it launched.
Buffett’s company owns more than 60 businesses and runs a perennially top-ranked stock portfolio.
Total Return to investors*: 675%
Adding sports drinks and juices has helped the Atlanta-based soft-drink maker keep up with consumer tastes.
Total Return to investors: 242%
Johnson & Johnson
This health care giant’s wares span a range that includes Band-Aids, hip implants, and arthritis drugs.
Total Return to investors: 678%
Windows put the tech Goliath on the map; cloud services and gaming have kept it in high repute.
Total Return to investors: 1,347%
One of the world’s biggest automakers, it helped rewrite the rules of global manufacturing.
Total Return to investors: 391%
*Returns from 10/27/98 through 1/12/23. Source: Bloomberg
This article appears in the February/March 2023 issue of Fortune with the headline, “Industry standouts as ranked by their peers.”
See the full 2023 Fortune World’s Most Admired Companies list.
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