Many Companies Remain Committed to Good Corporate Citizenship Despite Rocky Economy

Boston College survey shows larger firms more able than smaller companies to stick with corporate citizenship priorities.

Business' commitment to corporate citizenship ran up against a ferocious opponent in 2009 -- the global economy. Despite the turbulence, "most businesses are committed to being good corporate citizens," stated Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship in a white paper detailing recent survey results. "In fact, over half of these business leaders believe that corporate citizenship is even more important in a recession."

The survey under discussion is the 2009 State of Corporate Citizenship in the United States survey. The fourth biennial effort (a joint project of the Center and the Hitachi Foundation) examined the attitudes and actions of senior leadership at small, medium and large businesses with regard to corporate citizenship.

"This survey shows that business leaders understand that corporate citizenship entails great responsibilities as well as extensive rights. Most are diligently working and investing toward improving their efforts to more fully meet these responsibilities," says Barbara Dyer, president and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation.

Highlights from the survey include:

  • 54% of the U.S. senior executives reported that corporate citizenship is even more important in a recession.
  • 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.
  • 38% of companies reported decreasing their philanthropy and giving.
  • 70% of executives identified reputation as the No. 1 driver of corporate citizenship. That percentage grew to 82% for large companies.
  • Based on current economic conditions, 15% of companies are increasing R&D for new sustainable products; 11% are increasing corporate citizenship marketing and communications; and 10% are increasing local and/or domestic sourcing or manufacturing.
The survey was conducted by polling firm GlobeScan in June 2009. Some 756 executives participated.

A white paper on the survey results, titled "Weathering the Storm: the State of Corporate Citizenship in the United States 2009," is available online in PDF form at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. Registration is required.

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