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The State of Corporate Citizenship (A Report)

January 22, 2013

The Center for Corporate Citizenship at the Boston College Carroll School of Management recently released its 2012 State of Corporate Citizenship Report. As a part of its findings, the report asserts that 80 percent or more of corporate executives, across all business types and industries, confirm that environmental, social and governance investments create financial value for their companies. According to the study, these investments don't just make the firms look good and employees feel good – they help achieve business goals such as increasing market share and managing risk.

This biennial research report surveyed executives from 749 mostly medium and large U.S. companies in a wide range of industries. Survey respondents work in a variety of states, with California (11 percent) and Texas (9 percent) being the most frequently mentioned. Most of the respondents' companies have global operations. The Center for Corporate Citizenship was founded in 1985 as a research and education center focused on leadership in corporate citizenship.

Other interesting findings from the report include:

  • Companies that align corporate citizenship strategy with overall corporate strategy are more likely to achieve important business objectives. The report asserts that with reputation- and corporate culture-related objectives, success was more likely for those who integrated than those who did not.
  • The percentages of those reporting success in achieving business objectives increased as the duration of the corporate citizenship effort increased. Increases ranged from 30 to 50 percent when comparing durations on one-year or less vs. four years or more of investment.
  • Companies serving both business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets place more emphasis on corporate citizenship that those companies operating only in business-to-consumer markets. The report speculates that this may be attributable to consumers' reluctance to embrace higher prices that might be related to the cost of socially or environmentally conscious products.
  • Environmental sustainability programs received the greatest increases in funding over the past three years, and are expected to continue to be a funding priority over the next three years. However, the same report states that fewer executives believe there will be short-term returns on environmental investments than believe there will be short-term returns on social or governance investments.
  • Executives across all industry types were aligned on the important of the following aspects of corporate citizenship:
    • Creating well-compensated jobs
    • Promoting gender equality
    • Providing relief following natural disasters
    • Promoting diversity and inclusiveness

One surprise in the survey results was that "employee support" programs had the greatest decrease in perceived importance to corporate citizenship efforts over the next three years. As mentioned above, environmental sustainability programs such as "waste reduction/recycling programs" and "protection of the natural environment" had the largest increases in perception while "employee support programs" and "employee volunteer" programs had two of the largest decreases. "Philanthropy/corporate giving" stayed the same in importance.

This finding runs somewhat contrary to my own assertions in last week's posting (Five CSR Trends to Watch in 2013) that there is a growing recognition that employees are key stakeholders in the sustainability efforts of companies, and the growing importance of skills-based employee volunteer programs in the coming years. Let me know who you think is right.

Finally, the State of Corporate Citizenship Report notes that most survey respondents say that investments will either stay the same or increase for almost all corporate citizenship programs in the coming years, so that's good news for many CSR stakeholders.

Please let me know what you think of these findings by clicking here and sending me an email message. Or, alternatively, follow me on Twitter @tmcclimonCSRNow and comment there.

P.S. Did you know that according to consumer data from the Nielsen Global Socially Conscious Research Study (noted in the State of Corporate Citizenship Report) there is a high level of agreement among consumers that companies should be held responsible for environmental sustainability?


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