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The Co-operative Bank has topped Business in the Community's Corporate Responsibility Index, with BAA and Barclays making up the top three.

This is the fourth consecutive year leading companies have chosen to submit to public scrutiny by completing the Index, published today as the Top 100 Companies that Count.

The Index has quickly established itself as the leading public benchmark of performance in the complex corporate responsibility agenda. Companies that participate demonstrate a commitment to openness and transparency in leadership, management and in the measurement of social and environmental performance.

A total of 131 companies participated in the Index this year, including 26 new companies, representing 4.2 million employees and a total turnover of pounds 686.6 billion. The average score across all participating companies is 84 per cent which indicates a steady improvement over time, up from 68 per cent in 2002.

Key trends emerging from this year's Index include an increase in transparency by companies with more public reporting of policies, targets and performance. The Index also shows an increase in companies engaging and developing employees as well as a change in emphasis on staff retention, not just recruitment. An increased focus on reward and recognition of employees was also evident this year.

Business in the Community chairman and international chairman, KPMG, Michael Rake said: "Transparency of business is key to many stakeholders including investors and is also a contributing factor to building the public's trust of business. …