LeadershipCryptocurrencyInflationGreat ResignationInvesting

Apple, Walt Disney, and UnitedHealth have this in common: Their business rivals give them ultra-high performance scores

February 2, 2022, 10:30 AM UTC

The Most Admired Companies list aims to quantify the reputations of the world’s biggest businesses. But dig a little deeper—see our methodology—and you’ll realize that Fortune’s rankings actually capture two versions of each company’s reputation. The All-Stars list ranks companies by the esteem they command from the wider business community. Our individual industry rankings show the standing each one holds among leaders in its own industry—the folks who compete with it every day. So while Apple’s 15-year reign on the All-Stars list is truly remarkable, for example, its presence atop the computer industry ranking, for the 12th time in the past 13 years, suggests that it has simultaneously impressed an even tougher audience.

For the industry rankings, we ask respondents to rate their peers numerically on nine specific criteria, offering a more detailed window on where those companies shine. Apple, for example, landed in the top 10—among all companies in all industries—in eight of those nine categories, and got the top score overall in three: “quality of products,” “ability to attract, develop, and retain talented people,” and “soundness of financial position.” 

Entertainment industry insiders hold Walt Disney (No. 5 overall) in similarly high esteem; the House of Mouse also landed top 10 scores in eight categories. Not coincidentally, Disney has been the top-ranked company in entertainment for 19 years in a row. And insurance giant UnitedHealth Group illustrates just how far popular opinion and specialists’ esteem can diverge. It didn’t crack our top 50 All-Stars this year, but insurance and managed care insiders ranked it tops in that industry for the 12th straight time and gave it chart-busting high marks, including the highest overall scores for “wise use of corporate assets” and “value as a long-term investment.”

Our individual industry rankings show the standing each company holds among leaders in its own industry—the folks who compete with it every day.

There are plenty of other streaks to highlight among our 52 industry groups. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has topped the property and casualty insurance group for all 24 years of the survey’s existence. Berkshire also shares an exclusive honor with Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, and Toyota Motor; those five companies have appeared on our All-Stars list every year since 1998. U.S. Bancorp is our top superregional bank for the 12th year in a row, while Starbucks, in food services, and BlackRock, in asset management, each topped its field in 2021 for the 10th consecutive year. 

Elsewhere, other companies made their debuts in first place, often under circumstances that reflect today’s trying times. In chipmaking, contracting giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. finished first, a sign of its ability to deliver products relatively reliably during a global chip shortage. In chemicals, Ecolab, a company perhaps best known for water purification and sanitization products, took top honors during a painfully hygiene-conscious year, and in real estate, Prologis, a San Francisco–based company specializing in supply-chain logistics, earned top honors. 

In life insurance, meanwhile, TIAA reached the No. 1 slot for the first time, capping a year in which the company—founded by Andrew Carnegie back in 1918—tapped Thasunda Brown Duckett to become one of the few Black women CEOs in the Fortune 500. Even in a feverishly competitive business environment, addressing long-standing inequities can, and should, earn you the admiration of your rivals.

A version of this article appears in the February/March issue of Fortune with the headline, “Industry standouts as ranked by their peers.”

See Fortune‘s full 2022 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies.