Israel’s largest companies are becoming more attentive to their employees but still lag behind their foreign competitors in making community contributions, according to the 2012 Maala corporate social-responsibility index, which was released Sunday.

Ninety-one public, private and government- owned companies representing more than half of business-sector GDP participated in this year’s survey. The index, which was first published in 2003, assessed the firms’ performance in six areas: ethics, workplace environment, community involvement, the environment, corporate governance and management reporting.

The index showed that more companies than ever are addressing workplace environment issues, with 75 percent examining wage differences between males and females, 67% creating policies on work-leisure balance and 77% enabling employees to volunteer for other organizations during work hours.

Arabs and haredi Jews continued to be underrepresented in the workforces of large corporations, although not to the same extent as in previous years. About 45% of the surveyed firms absorbed Arabs into their workforce in the past year, 24% absorbed haredim and 12% absorbed new employees with disabilities.

Treatment of contract workers – the focus of a four-day Histadrut-declared general strike in February – was emphasized more heavily in this year’s index. It found that 48% of companies that use contract workers deal with violations of those workers’ rights, 44% conduct a background check on their chosen contractor company and 38% end their relationship with a contractor company in the event of violations.

Twenty-eight index participants now publish regular corporate responsibility reports, up from just 12 firms in 2008. Seventy-six percent have updated their code of ethics in the past two years, although only 57% allowed workers to participate in the formulation of their code of ethics and only 42% provided an avenue for workers to complain anonymously about code violations.

The 91 companies contributed a combined NIS 570 million, or about 1% of profits, to their communities this year, which according to the index was far less than the global average of 1.5%-3%. The firms made NIS 240m. in direct cash contributions, adding a further NIS 330m.

through provision of services such as food, medicine and office space.

Overall, the banks were the index’s top performers in the public sector, with Leumi, Hapoalim and Discount joining Strauss Group as the only four companies to achieve a ranking of “platinum plus” for a score of 90-plus (out of 100). SanDisk Israel and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems were the only other two companies to achieve the highest ranking.

On the other side of the coin, energy firms Dor Alon and Delek, telcoms HOT and 012 Smile, Phoenix Insurance, real-estate group Blue Square, transportation firm Egged and retailer Home Center all achieved the lowest possible silver rating for scores of 31 to 69. Most of these firms were penalized for their poor community involvement, while Dor Alon and Egged were also punished for low scores in the ethics category.

Last summer’s public protests over socioeconomic issues presented the perfect opportunity for large corporations to address their behavior, Ma’ala CEO Momo Mahadav said Wednesday at a Tel Aviv conference.

He recommended that companies use his organization’s index for internal purposes, because “in the end, the public will be the judge.”

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