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What Are CEOs Saying About CSR?

April 9, 2012

The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), a forum of business leaders focused on increasing the level and quality of corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility, recently released a summary of its annual "Board of Boards CEO Conference," which was held in February 2012.

This year's summit included over 50 CEOs and delegations of business executives from India and Brazil. The theme of the meeting was "Next Generation Community Engagement: A Transformative Business Opportunity."

What did this group of CEOs -- from companies like Alcoa, Bloomberg, Campbell Soup, Eli Lilly, Honeywell, Humana, Newman's Own, Samsung, Western Union and UBS – have to say about CSR and community engagement?

There were four findings that I thought were of interest:

  • 59% of CEOs reported that consumers are demanding greater levels of transparency regarding a company's community engagement initiatives than they were five years ago. Speakers urged companies to open a dialogue with their consumers using social media.
  • 69% of CEOs felt that their companies' community engagement efforts are rewarded by consumers, although a majority of those CEOs cannot concretely measure those rewards. The prevailing sentiment was that metrics lag behind, but the difficulty of measuring the return shouldn't be an excuse to pull back or to disengage from communities.
  • 52% of CEOs indicated that shareholder demand for transparency regarding a company's commitment to the community is unchanged from five years ago, and that the demand did not increase during the economic downturn. One CEO attributed this lack of interest to the absence of practical, agreed-upon industry metrics that allow investors to assess more meaningfully the financial impact of a company's community engagement initiatives.
  • 45% of CEOs believe that the business community will be the agent for leading progress in the marketplace toward long-term societal well-being, as opposed to consumers (32%), government (18%) or investors (0%). The spread of these responses indicates that many CEOs recognize a need for cross-sector partnership and collaboration to improve the well-being of society overall.

At the end of the day, one of the moderators summed up the meeting by saying it's all about CEO leadership. "It's about the way that CEOs want to attract, retain, and engage talented employees, and the kind of companies they want to create that directs them to assume a leadership role."

The entire report is available at

What do you think? Does this report accurately reflect what you believe CEOs are thinking about CSR and community engagement activities today? Or what they should be thinking?

Let us know here.

P.S. Did you know that CECP's members include more than 180 global CEOs and chairpersons of companies that collectively account for more than 40% of reported corporate giving in the United States?


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