Taking Stock of Corporate Citizenship

Taking Stock of Corporate Citizenship

BC survey finds companies embrace corporate responsibility

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

Despite a recent rash of highly publicized corporate scandals in the United States, the nation's companies are more than ever embracing corporate responsibility and citizenship, according to a Boston College study.

Center for Corporate Citizenship Executive Director Bradley Googins. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
The study of 515 large and small American corporations, conducted by BC's Center for Corporate Citizenship in conjunction with the US Chamber of Commerce, found that 87 percent of respondents considered it "very important" to operate their businesses in an ethical fashion, 85 percent felt it was very important to treat employees well, and 81 percent felt it was very important to have safe and reliable products or services.

This overwhelmingly favorable response came as no surprise to CCC Executive Director Bradley Googins.

"Corporate citizenship in the US is gaining momentum, not losing steam in the face of a challenging business environment," he said. "At a time when corporations are under a tremendous scrutiny for their action - both internally within the company and externally in the global marketplace - and are also dealing with an economic recession and post 9/11 terrorist concerns, it is encouraging to see that corporate citizenship is gaining attention."

Initial findings of the survey, which was funded by the Hitachi Corp., were released in July and the full report will be published in December. Participants in the survey hold membership in the US Chamber of Commerce or BC's Center for Corporate Citizenship.

Among the key findings of the study were that the vast majority of firms see corporate citizenship as an important part of their business plan and that monetary investment in corporate citizenship has increased or remained constant among most companies.

Survey results also suggest that traditions and values are ranked by 75 percent of respondents as the top internal motivating factor for companies that embrace effective corporate citizenship activities, far ahead of reputation and image (53 percent) and business strategies (52).

The scope and scale of corporate citizenship is bigger than expected, according to the findings, with small- and medium-sized businesses active in the corporate citizenship arena along with the nation's major companies.

Initial survey data also indicated some 20 percent of businesses include improving conditions in poor communities as part of their corporate citizenship strategies.

"Corporate reputation, ability to attract and retain and engaged workforce and a basic license to operate are just a few examples of why companies are engaging in corporate citizenship," Googins said of the initial findings.

"It was great to see companies defining corporate citizenship much broader than philanthropy and community involvement. They recognize that they need to be addressing issues like human rights, poverty and environment.

"This survey is a critical first step in understanding the motivations and practices that US companies use to define corporate citizenship," he said, "at a time when expectations are increasing for businesses to better define their role in society."

Googins added that the published data will assist companies to determine their own level of corporate citizenship activities and prompt many to upgrade their efforts. "We expect to use this survey as a baseline from which to measure the progress of corporate citizenship in the US and globally," he said. "We will also use it as a comparison for the other independent research conducted by the center.

"As we circulate this survey data, we hope companies that aspire to become good corporate citizens will use the results for guidance and motivation," he said.


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