Positive attitudes about corporate citizenship among U.S. business leaders are not yet matched by positive actions.
That is the most striking finding of the third biennial "State of Corporate Citizenship in the U.S." research. The survey, unique in including views from companies of all sizes, is a project of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and The Hitachi Foundation.
"The gap between what companies say they value and what they actually do is the most important finding," said Bradley K. Googins, Ph.D., Executive Director, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. "Given the challenges we face, that's an unacceptable status quo. We need to start understanding why this gap exists and to help business leaders make the translation from rhetoric to actions that benefit both their businesses and society."
Some of the notable paradoxes:
• Sixty percent of surveyed executives say corporate citizenship is part of their business strategy to a large or very great extent - but just 39 percent report it is part of their business planning process, and only 25 percent have an individual or team responsible for citizenship issues.
• Seventy-six percent of executives say corporate citizenship fits their companies' traditions and values - yet only 36 percent report talking to their employees about corporate citizenship.
• Most business leaders (81%) note the importance of valuing employees and treating them well - yet less than half (46%) support work-life balance for all employees including hourly workers and just about a third (31%) offer training and career opportunities for their own lower-wage employees.
"Even when action could address a pressing business need, such as developing and tapping a skilled workforce, reality trails behind rhetoric," said Barbara Dyer, President and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation. "While 41 percent felt that companies should be held responsible for improving the education and skills in the communities where they operate, only 18 percent of business are offering job training to people in economically distressed communities."
Business leaders' attitudes toward corporate citizenship, while positive overall, lagged behind public attitudes. Comparing the results of this survey of business leaders to other surveys of public expectations reveals that the general public expects significantly more from business than do business leaders themselves on issues like the environment, human rights, education, workforce development, and poverty elimination.
"These are big societal challenges," notes Dr. Googins. "They cannot be tackled solely by business. But we also know they cannot be resolved without business – often working with public and nonprofit partners."
The full survey covers many other issues involving the drivers, benefits, and management of corporate citizenship and its impact on stakeholders. Of the 751 executives participating in the on-line survey, 53 percent were CEOs, 34 percent held vice president positions, 10 percent were directors and 3 percent held other senior level positions. The survey was conducted by GlobeScan, a professional polling firm based in Toronto, Canada.
The 2007 report Time to Get Real: Closing the Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality is available as a PDF (free registration and/or login required).
To comment on the results go to our blog at www.corporatecitizen07.com.
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