Public Sees Corporate Citizenship Improving, Promises Rewards
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Public Sees Corporate Citizenship Improving, Promises Rewards

Consumers believe companies are making improvements when it comes to corporate citizenship and that translates to an effect on the bottom line, according to a national opinion survey conducted by GolinHarris.

Paul Holmes

Consumers believe companies are making improvements when it comes to corporate citizenship and that translates to an effect on the bottom line, according to a national opinion survey conducted by GolinHarris.

Forty percent of respondents to the survey of 3,500 Americans say good corporate citizenship makes them more willing to do business with a company. The survey found that corporate citizenship can influence consumer opinion and behavior, and essentially turn consumers into brand champions.

Respondents indicated that good corporate citizenship by a company or brand would inspire them to try the company’s products for the first time; welcome the company into their communities; recommend the company’s products and services to friends and family; trust the company, its people and products; and improve their overall opinion of the company’s reputation

Less encouraging is survey respondents’ perception of the performance of American business in corporate citizenship. Only 25 percent believe corporate America is doing an “excellent” or “good” job in its commitment to corporate citizenship. But there is a glimmer of positive news: the number of people in the survey who responded that business is moving in the right direction in corporate citizenship showed a slight improvement, an increase to 28 percent from 24 percent last year.

“Our research shows that investing in corporate citizenship is a positive brand-building strategy, not merely a defensive brand-protection strategy,” said GolinHarris president and CEO Fred Cook. “Progressive brands realize that corporate citizenship is more than a ‘nice to have’—it’s a ‘must have’ activity for their success.”

In addition to giving their impressions of the general direction of corporate citizenship in this country, respondents were asked to rate the performance of 108 companies. From those ratings, GolinHarris developed a single score for each company, called the Corporate Citizenship Index, which enables comparisons between various brands and industry groups.

“Embracing corporate citizenship as an essential business strategy is what sets the top performing brands apart in the GolinHarris 2005 Corporate Citizenship Index,” said Rob Anderson, executive vice president of Change, the agency’s corporate social responsibility practice. “These brands have successfully demonstrated that their commitment to corporate citizenship is authentic, pervasive, and essential to what they stand for.”

The top 10 performers are:
1 Johnson & Johnson
2 Ben & Jerry’s
3 Walt Disney Company (tie)
3 Whole Foods (tie)
5 SC Johnson
6 Kraft
7 3M (tie)
7 McDonald’s (tie)
7 Procter & Gamble (tie)
7 Southwest Airlines (tie)

Respondents identified 12 key drivers that determine a company’s performance as a good corporate citizen, with how a company treats its employees as the number one driver. Following is an overview of the 12 corporate citizenship drivers (percentage of respondents ranking this attribute “very high” or “high”):
• Values and treats its employees well and fairly (85 percent)
• Executives and business practices are ethical, honest, responsible and accountable (83 percent)
• Goes beyond what is required to provide safe and reliable products and services (75 percent)
• Responsibly markets and advertises its products and services (72 percent)
• Committed to social responsibility, economic opportunity, environmental protection, etc. (72 percent)
• Listens to community or customer input before making business decisions (68 percent)
• Is active an involved in the communities where it does business (68 percent)
• Committed to diversity (gender, race, etc) in the workplace and its business practices (65 percent)
• Company’s products and services enhance peoples’ lives (64 percent)
• Corporate values and business practices are consistent with my own beliefs (62 percent)
• Supports a cause or issue that has led to improvement and positive change (61 percent)
• Donates or invests its fare share of profits, goods or services to benefit others (59 percent)

The impact of a company’s good corporate citizenship standing is not only dependant on its initiatives, but on its ability to communicate its commitments effectively. According to the survey, the top five most credible ways to learn about a company’s corporate citizenship are through people and organizations who have been helped or are personally involved in the company’s corporate citizenship; news coverage on television and radio; news coverage in newspapers and magazines; partnering with non-profit organizations, educational institutions, government and other groups consumers trust, respect and admire; and community events, fundraisers, sponsorships, symbols of solidarity.

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