Economic Crisis Demonstrates Corporate Citizenship and CSR are here to Stay
For years there has been an ongoing discussion about how corporate social responsibility would – or not – stand up to a deep recession. The debate is no longer academic and the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship has data that shows CSR – or corporate citizenship as we call it – is clearly here to stay. If anything as our biennial State of Corporate Citizenship survey, of 800 senior executives shows the recession has deepened the integration corporate citizenship into the core of business strategy and operation. (54%) of executives surveyed said corporate citizenship was more important during a recession
The State of Corporate Citizenship in the United States 2009 made possible with a grant from the Hitachi Foundation is the 4th biannual survey of Senior Executives conducted by the Center for Corporate Citizenship executives leaders and is the only research of its kind to provide a comprehensive overview of executives of small, medium, and large-sized U.S. businesses perceptions and actions on corporate citizenship.
Highlights of the survey, include:
* Despite upheaval in the economy, a majority of U.S. companies are not making major changes in their corporate citizenship practices. Of those who made changes 38% reduced philanthropy/giving, 27% increased layoffs, and 19% reduced R&D for sustainable products.
* Reputation was cited by 70% as a driver for corporate citizenship, tied for the top spot with “it fits our company traditions and values.”
* Most U.S. senior executives believe business should be more involved than it is today in addressing major public issues including health care, product safety, education, and climate change. Surveyed in June, just as the national debate on health care began to intensify, some 65 percent said business should increase its involvement in this issue.
* Large companies significantly increased their investments and involvement in citizenship activities, but were more likely to impose layoffs. Small firms stayed committed to their emphasis on treating employees well by minimizing layoffs. But they significantly decreased attention to other aspects of citizenship.
While corporate citizenship is clearly gaining traction as a business imperative the 2009 survey points to new challenges particularly as business seeks to rebuild public trust through self regulation and engage in public policy making. The current crisis has expanded the “lens” by which the public judge companies corporate citizenship performance. With critical failures in corporate governance and management accountability in the financial sector the spotlight is once again focused on central pillar of Corporate Citizenship, governance, and the responsibility of corporate directors and senior management to ensure accountability of the firm to both its shareholders and society. It brings back into focus that corporate citizenship is, in the end, about the total impact of the company on society and not simply a set of corporate citizenship programs be they community involvement programs or green products and services. Going forward companies will need to ensure they have embedded corporate citizenship principles and policies across all domains of the firm from governance, to operations to products and services if they are to be viewed as credible when they talk about self regulation and participation in public policy making on critical social and environmental issues.
We would like to know how are findings relate to the experience of your company in this economic downturn. Take a look at our survey (PDF) found here and let’s see how the opinions of these 756 executives compare to what you are experiencing. Would you agree that corporate citizenship is more important during a recession?
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