>What exactly do the results of the Public Value Atlas show?

For the individual

  • Insight into the public value contributions of business and administration
  • Guidance for consumer decisions and employer selection
  • Participation in discussions on the public value contributions of individual organizations

For the organizations

  • Position in the society
  • Bridging function between the society and organizations
  • Starting points for improvement and strategic reorientation

For the society

  • Establishing a liberal public value concept
  • The Public Value Atlas as a data-driven basis for discussion
  • Reference point for socio-political decisions

>How can the public value concept be distinguished from other approaches, such as CSR or stakeholder value?

The public value concept estimates the way in which an organization’s core business influences the functionality of a society. In contrast to unilateral focal points, such as the stakeholder value, or shareholder value, this concept takes a holistic view of corporate activity as a public value creation. The public value concept focuses on an organization’s societal role. This can be private companies, non-profit organizations, or public administrations.

Consequently, issues which do not attract attention when regarded individually, or are apparent within other surveys, come into focus. For example, the public value approach addresses challenges, that cannot be managed through a balance of interests between stakeholders. The goal is not to give preference to a particular approach. The solution lies in a balanced approach, and, thus, in a holistic consideration of the conflict areas between different evaluation perspectives. It depends on the acceptance and the appreciation within the societal environment, which balance is considered as acceptable.

The following figure illustrates the different prioritizations of the individual approaches.

Vergleich Zu Anderen Ansätzen Eng

>Who commissioned the study? Does it include cooperation with companies?

The Public Value Atlas is a project of the Center for Leadership and Values in Society (CLVS-HSG) of the University of St.Gallen. The CLVS alone specified the content of the scientific study and the analyzed companies and organizations. Ernst & Young, Rochus Mummert, Oetker-Group (Dr. Arend Oetker) support the scientific work financially. The analyzed organizations were not asked whether they wished to be part of the study. The CLVS has established research cooperation with certain individual institutions.

>How can I as an individual evaluate the public value contribution of organizations?

The data collection for the Public Value Atlas has been completed. You are welcome to participate in the discussion via the category News and on our page on Facebook. In addition, you can share the function “weights” of your individual value system with us.

Weights Eng

>What does a low public value contribution indicate, and what are the possible implications for a company?

The Public Value Atlas reflects company contributions to public value from the public’s point of view. The data base can be considered a point of departure for a fact-based discussion and invites reflection on companies’ activities through different perspectives. Each company is entitled to draw its own conclusion from the Public Value Atlas results and, if it wishes, to identify its areas of activity.

>Why are certain organizations committed to public value not included in the Public Value Atlas (e.g. political parties, other associations etc.)?

We endeavor to take a variety of important organizations and companies into account in our survey, and would like to include even more organizations in the Public Value Atlas. Beside methodological limitations (e.g., the organization’s sufficient familiarity), financial and staff expenses also restrict the expansion of the Public Value Atlas; therefore, only a limited number of companies are represented in the Public Value Atlas at the moment. In the coming years, we will try to introduce more focal points and to increase the number of organizations and companies.

>Were companies and organizations also consulted during the analysis?

The data refer to external perceptions of companies and organizations. Companies and organizations were not included in the data collection to avoid a comparison between self-image and public image.

>Are the Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken (banks) represented twice in the Public Value Atlas?

No. The “Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken,” as well as the “Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken (BVR),” are included in the Public Value Atlas. While the “Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken” are responsible for actual banking business and were included in the familiarity questionnaire as one of the most popular financial institutions for salary and current accounts (source), the “Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken (BVR)” ― one of the representatives of the interests of “Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken” ― originates from the list of the largest associations according to their membership numbers (source). As an umbrella organization, the BVR represents the interests of cooperative banks in Germany and acts in an advisory function for its members. The respondents are sufficiently familiar with both organizations for them to be included in the main survey.  (public value score of “Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken”: 4.94, public value score of BVR: 4.95).

>How was the classification into the three categories top group, middle range and bottom group done?

The public value scores ranged from 5.69 and 1.89. These values are valid and/or “true” for the analyzed sample, i.e., the respondents. In order to infer the underlying “true” value applicable to the entire population, a statistical tool, namely the confidence interval, needs to be used. The confidence interval indicates an area, or interval, with a defined probability of being a “true” value. In this way it is possible to cope with the fluctuations or variances in the answers and the number of respondents. A confidence interval with a confidence level of 99.9% was specified to classify the groups. This means there is a 99.9% probability that the “true” value will lie within the identified value range between the upper and lower boundary of the interval. A higher selected confidence level leads to a lower risk of wrong assessments, but a wider interval. The confidence interval is individually calculated for each organization, because they have different characteristics: the number of respondents, the variance, or standard deviation, and the mean.

A higher number of surveyed persons leads to a narrower interval. More precisely, the width of the interval decreases with the square root of the sample size. Thus, the more respondents, the more one can assume that the resulting value applies to larger groups of persons. For example: Let’s allow first two and then 18 persons to evaluate organization Z:

Organization Z, two persons with the values [3; 4]. Mean = 3.5

Organization Z, 18 persons with the values [3; 3; 3; 3; 3; 3; 3; 3; 3; 4; 4; 4; 4; 4; 4; 4; 4; 4].
Mean = 3.5

A smaller sample has a larger uncertainty. With 18 persons, the uncertainty is only a third of what it is with two persons if all the other parameters stay constant.

In addition to the number of respondents, the fluctuations, or variance, of the answers are also relevant. This, for instance, is the case when an organization is controversial, or when different persons provide evaluations with large differences. Example: let four persons each evaluate two organizations Y and Z :

Organization Y: [1; 5; 1; 5]. Mean = 3

Organization Z: [3; 3; 3; 3]. Mean = 3

The means of organizations Y and Z are equal, but the fluctuations in the answers are not. While organization Y’s variance is quite large, organization Z’s variance is zero (which is almost never the case).

The same principle of the confidence interval was also applied to the mean of all the organizations, forming the basis of the organizations’ classification. The mean of all the organizations is also an estimation based on the means of all organizations. When these fluctuate, the mean of all the organizations also fluctuates.

An organization thus enters the top group if the lowest value of its confidence interval is above the highest value of the confidence interval of the mean of all the organizations. Only then can we maintain that the mean of the particular organization has a 99.9% probability of being above the mean of all the organizations. Consequently, an organization with a high mean when compared to other organizations in the top group may sometimes not be included in this group, due to the marked fluctuations in the answers and, thus, a too wide confidence interval. Under such circumstances, an organization’s confidence interval overlaps the mean of all the organizations.

Reciprocally, an organization can enter a top group if the highest value of its confidence interval is below the lowest value of the confidence interval of the mean of all the organizations.

Example Group Classification Eng

With this approach, we follow the example of the CHE university ranking. This is a recognized ranking of German-speaking universities, technical colleges, and vocational academic institutions.

>Can a low public value contribution be solely ascribed to ineffective/little marketing?

Marketing, public relations, and advertisement certainly have a huge impact on the public perception of companies and organizations. However, a positive image conveyed by these is not sufficient to be perceived as beneficial for public value. Sooner or later the actual accomplishments of companies, or organizations, also become important. Whether an organization acts positively, or negatively, in the sense of public value, the population’s attitude is the one that ultimately counts. In short, public value is what the public values. If companies and organizations do not keep their promises, the general public will, over time, not regard their conduct as legitimate, or appreciate them.

>Can the raw data be inspected?

The raw study data are generally not published on the website. However, if you wish to analyze the data scientifically, you are welcome to contact us via kontakt@gemeinwohlatlas.de.

>Can the public value contribution be seen as an indicator of companies’ future economic success?

Whether, or to what extent, companies’ public value contributions lead to economic success, is one of our long-term research questions. A first study from 2018 showed that rising values in the public value score of companies are associated with decreasing stock volatility (Bilolo, 2018).

>How widespread is the public value concept? Does it already play a role in companies and organizations?

In practice, the public value concept is already very well received. The DAX-listed company, Fresenius Medical Care, already uses a public value scorecard in addition to a balanced scorecard. By incorporating an external point of view, the company wants to gain a better understanding of the social benefit of healthcare services rendered by private providers.

Every two years, the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für das Badewesen e. V.” (German Association for the Recreational and Medical Bath Industry) gives a public value award to a public bathhouse. In this way, public swimming pools that create a special public value contribution are rewarded. In addition, the "Bundesagentur für Arbeit" (Federal Employment Agency) uses the public value concept to understand and realize its societal contribution, which reaches far beyond its simple task fulfillment, and to assist with management decision making. FC Bayern Munich uses the public value approach to structurally include the challenges of the club’s societal role, in order to grow into a global entertainment brand. German international schools abroad view the public value concept as a possibility to capture their value holistically, and in various value dimensions.

Public broadcasting corporations adopted the public value concept broadly and were some of the first organizations that wanted to determine their public value contribution. They feel obliged to justify their public funding with their public value contribution. The BBC assumed a pioneer role by having new channels undergo a public value test. ARD and ZDF in Germany, as well as ORF in Austria, use similar methods to determine the public value contributions of new broadcasting formats. In Switzerland, various companies and organizations already apply this concept.

For an overview of experiences with public value in practice, also see Zeitschrift für Organisationsentwicklung (2013). Was wirklich zählt. Organisationen entdecken ihren Public Value, 4. http://www.zoe-online.org/fruehere-ausgaben_2013-04-was-wirklich-zaehlt.html

>What constitutes the further development of the Public Value Atlas 2019 compared to the Public Value Atlas 2015?

The number of evaluated organizations in the Public Value Atlas 2019 increased to 137 (2015: 127 organizations). In 2019 organizations such as churches and digital companies were included in the new Public Value Atlas. With the results from two different measurement periods, the development of the public value contributions of individual companies and organizations can now also be examined over the course of time. Furthermore, the website offers new features that enable users to make interesting analyses and facilitate navigation. By using different filters, data can be selected by industry, headquarters, or region. A search for individual organization names is also possible. The user can thus generate an individually compiled list of organizations and companies, and compare these with each other.

>Why the Public Value Atlas 2019 evaluated a slightly modified set of companies and organizations compared with the Public Value Atlas 2015?

The list of surveyed organzations has been adapted by including for instance churches and digital companies. Prior to the inclusion, a population-representative sample evaluated their level of familiarity. Only organizations with a sufficient degree of familiarity were incorporated in the main survey, which is why a few companies and organizations included in 2015 are no longer form part of the Public Value Atlas 2019.

>What is the relation between the Public Value Atlas Germany and the Public Value Atlas Switzerland?

The Public Value Atlas Switzerland was published in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019. This enables transnational identification of the differences and the similarities in the evaluation process. For example, it is interesting to compare the evaluations of international companies evaluated in Germany and in Switzerland, as well as to compare single industries, in terms of their cultural priorities.

>Isn’t it unfair to group social sector organizations (e.g., DRK) and profit-oriented multinational companies (e.g., Nestlé) together in one category?

The results show that the population attributes a higher public value contribution score to social sector organizations. Large multinational companies are at a disadvantage here. But ultimately all categories of organizations either have a positive, or a negative, influence on social wellbeing, and they should therefore be evaluated according to the same evaluation standards. We included filter options in the data visualization to allow comparison within certain sectors and industries.

>What can companies and organizations do to increase their public value contribution?

There is no standard recipe for this. Society has the final decision on what is considered right or wrong. The public value approach does, however, help companies and organizations better understand their role in society. The public value scorecard is an important tool to scrutinize company decisions with regard to public value and, in addition to the company’s profitability, also takes basic human needs into account.

>How is the public value calculated?

Each organization is evaluated according to four public value dimensions which are represented with four colors. These are based on the four basic human needs identified in a comparative study by the American psychologist Seymour Epstein.

Respondents were asked to evaluate each organization according to the four dimensions, on a scale from 1 (poor contribution) to 6 (strong contribution). The public value score is the average of the four ratings.


>How is the distribution curve (violin plot) calculated?

For the four core dimensions the distribution curve is calculated by interpolating the points of the responses for each rating (see image below).


For the public value visualization, the single scores are converted into the points that generate the curve by using the Kernel Density Estimation and applying the Epanechnikov kernel.


By applying this calculation method to all the dimensions and overlapping the shapes, it is possible to observe whether a dimension complies with the public value distribution or it diverges from it. The more an area exceeds the public value line the more the corresponding dimension diverges from the overall evaluation of the organization.

The image below shows an example based on the responses of one person.


>How are the mean and the median line calculated?

The mean of each dimension indicates the balancing point of the responses distribution. It is calculated by adding all the respondents’ evaluation of a dimension and then dividing the sum by the total count of the responses.


On the overview page the organizations are ordered according to their public value score (mean) and the median of the list is indicated with a vertical dashed line. This line divides the list in half, separating the organizations with the higher public value score from the ones with the lower score.

The median is the middle value of the list (in descending order); in case there is an even number of items, the median is the mean of the two middle values.