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The U.S. State of Corporate Citizenship in 2005


December 1, 2005

State of Corporate Citizenship reportCulling information directly from today’s business leaders, the 2005 State of Corporate Citizenship provides the most comprehensive look at the private sector’s perceptions about its own role in society.

This second in a biennial series delves into the corporate citizenship motivations, challenges, priorities and investments of 1,189 small, medium, and large businesses across the United States. Responses representing a breadth of industry sectors and geographic regions provide a unique insight into the state of corporate citizenship from a national perspective. 

Shedding light on the attitudes, experiences, and expectations of business leaders toward corporate citizenship, the 2005 State of Corporate Citizenship builds on results from the 2003 survey. Findings from this survey, produced with The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Corporate Citizenship with support from The Hitachi Foundation, reveal that for today’s businesses, the question is no longer if corporate citizenship should be a priority, but rather, how they approach it in the context of their business and the scope of their commitment. For example, of those surveyed: 

  • 81% believe that corporate citizenship needs to be a priority for companies
  • 69% believe the public has a right to expect good corporate citizenship
  • 64% believe the corporate citizenship makes a tangible contribution to the bottom line

Executives fall into two camps regarding business’ role in society. Slightly more than six in 10 perceive business as balancing the interests of multiple stakeholders, including investors, employees, consumers, communities, and the environment. The remaining respondents take a more compliant perspective focused on fulfilling employee and shareholder obligations. And while all companies engage in similar corporate citizenship activities, large companies are far more likely to have an expansive definition of their role in society. Among large companies:

  • 64% indicate that corporate citizenship is part of their business strategy (44% overall)
  • 68% have increased investment in corporate citizenship over the past two years (29% overall)

Engagement is largely driven by internal considerations – seventy-three percent of companies cite their company’s traditions and values as the primary actuating factors – and few respondents name employees (16%), top management (10%), or middle management (8%) as hindrances in their corporate citizenship efforts. Despite this internal recognition of corporate citizenship importance, 54% of executives report that a lack of resources is their biggest barrier. And while executives clearly view their role as societal stewards as important, the findings suggest a modest gap between executives’ expressed attitudes and the actions companies are actually undertaking.

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The findings do reveal that, across the board, companies are actively engaged in public life. Private sector involvement in social issues includes environmental protection, supporting education, and economic development in our poorest communities. The means by which each company relates to society is unique, and there is no one universal corporate citizenship strategy. 

The question raised by these findings is one of momentum – are companies becoming increasingly sophisticated in their relationships with society, and how will their approach to corporate citizenship evolve?  The next State of Corporate Citizenship, to be released in 2007, will provide insight into these nuanced questions.

» View all the survey results by downloading The State of Corporate Citizenship in the U.S.: Business Perspectives in 2005.

»  View the 2003 survey results.

For more information, contact Sapna Shah.

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