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Supporting The Corporations That Support Us
Jacqueline Beretta

August, 2004

When we're thinking about companies we would like to do business with, isn't it a good idea to research them to see if they are really worthy of our investment in them as both an investor and/or a customer?

Today – yes right now – savvy and well run corporations are doing more than existing just to sell us gas, produce a radio show, or provide us with insurance. They are realizing that the huge problems of society need the partnership of the populace, corporations and government to solve the huge problems we have been dealt.

In the era following Enron, corporations must overcome tides of anti-business sentiment. Many corporations are repositioning themselves in the communities in which they do business as constructive parts of society. They are providing teams of volunteers who make differences in communities, providing funding to address social issues, and oftentimes, executives provide business expertise to organizations.

A Good Example of Good Corporate Responsibility Reporting – Allstate Insurance

“Community outreach is more than a commitment for Allstate; it's a passion. As a corporate leader, we understand that giving back is good business, which is why we strive to improve communities across the country. We do so through the dedication and compassion of our Allstate agencies and employees and through corporate funding in areas where we can have the greatest impact.”

This brief expression just about sums it all up. According to CSR Network, there are many methods used to rate corporate accountability: strategic intent, governance, performance management, stakeholder engagement, assurance, and public disclosure.

The Allstate foundation funds more than 1,000 national and local program each year that support their three key focus areas: “safe and vital communities”, “tolerance, inclusion and diversity”, and “community empowerment.”

The Allstate Corporate Social Responsibility Report highlights national and local partnerships, investments and community efforts of Allstate agencies and employees. View it online or request a free copy at (888) 505-4677.

The State of Corporate Citizenship in the US: A View from Inside
Lisa Roner

A new report examines the attitudes, expectations and experiences of executives from small, medium and large US businesses toward corporate citizenship

The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College and the US Chamber of Commerce Center for Corporate Citizenship, with support from the Hitachi Foundation, surveyed 515 business leaders from companies of various sizes and from a broad range of industries to examine the executives' perceptions of the state of corporate citizenship in the US.

“The State of Corporate Citizenship in the US: A View from Inside” concludes that regardless of company size, business executives see corporate citizenship as a fundamental part of business and central to good business practice.

Eighty-two per cent of respondents say good corporate citizenship helped the bottom line and 59% feel these practices improve company image and reputation.

Fifty-three per cent report corporate citizenship is important to their customers.

More than half of the executives surveyed say corporate citizenship is part of their business strategy. The vast majority say corporate citizenship should be completely voluntary and not dictated by law.

The survey's results indicate that business leaders consider their obligation as citizens to be broader than the classic definition of good business practice – returning profit to shareholders, paying taxes and obeying the law. Most US companies say good corporate citizenship also includes meeting ethical, environmental and social objectives.

Business leaders say they are sensitive to the attitudes and expectations of the public and believe the public expects companies to meet or exceed legislative or regulatory requirements on product safety (75%), environmental performance (58%) and community support (53%). And the public, according to 74% of respondents, has a right to expect good corporate citizenship.

Survey participants identify customers (84%) and owners/shareholders (79%) as the most influential external stakeholders on business decision-making. But two-thirds cite employees as an influencing factor, 40% note government influence and more than 30% identify local communities and suppliers as influencers.

Forty-six per cent of survey participants say a lack of resources is the greatest obstacle to practicing good corporate citizenship. But, despite the economic recession occurring in the US at the time of the survey in 2003, 30% of companies said they were increasing investment in corporate citizenship, while 14% reported having decreased these investments.

Twenty-three per cent report increased investments in economically distressed communities. And even among the 32% of businesses that faced a decline in financial performance, 25% increased investments in corporate citizenship, with 17% bolstering their efforts in economically distressed communities.

The top community-investment priorities cited by survey participants are economic development and “K-12” home education.

Most respondents believe companies should be part of the solution to social problems and more than half say their companies should play a role in improving education, healthcare and the development of alternative energy sources.

Some businesses are taking action to support low-income stakeholders. One-third provide training for low-wage employees; nearly 20% are working to improve conditions in economically distressed communities; 12% hire people from poor communities; and 10% locate company facilities in these communities.

While corporate scandals and abuses have taken center stage, Barbara Dyer, chief executive of the Hitachi Foundation, said: “Hundreds of thousands of businesses that play by the rules receive less focus.”

The report's findings provide a portrait of executives' perceptions of the state of corporate citizenship in the US in 2003 and a basis to track its evolution over time, the authors said.

The sponsoring partners said the survey's participants are from a random sample of US Chamber of Commerce members and closely mirror the US population of small, medium and large businesses.

“This survey takes a giant leap toward developing a more accurate and comprehensive picture of the state of corporate citizenship in the United States,” Dyer said. “It is the first to include the voices of small and medium-size businesses.”

According to the sponsors, one of the survey's objectives is to determine the gaps and commonalities between the outsider and insider views of corporate citizenship. Bridging the “definition gap”, the survey's sponsors said, may be critical to the future of corporate citizenship.

“Without a deeper understanding of business leaders' attitudes, those who champion good corporate citizenship are ill-prepared for a more constructive dialogue, one that could potentially move the field forward,” the authors said. “The survey supports the contention that the foundation for this dialogue is present. American companies and advocates agree that corporate citizenship is good business.” his article was printed with permission of Ethical Corporation magazine in London, England. More information may be found at www.ethicalcorp.com. © Ethical Corporation 2004




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