When Will Executives Get It?

Why is there still a disconnect between what executives are saying—that their companies need to be good corporate citizens—and what they are actually doing? 

According to BCCCC’s 2007 State of Corporate Citizenship Survey, while 62% of executives say that corporate citizenship is part of their business strategy, only 39% say they actually incorporate citizenship into their business planning process, and only 25% have a dedicated team or staff member to work on citizenship issues.

What will it take to move the C-suite from attitude to action?

Shouldn’t the increasing pressure from consumers and other key stakeholders be enough to inspire them to dedicate money, time and people to make “doing good” a business objective in itself? After all, according to Cone’s latest research, the majority of Americans will:

  • Switch from one product to another (price and quality being equal) if the other product is associated with a good cause
  • Consider a company’s commitment to social issues when deciding which companies they want to see doing business in their communities, where to work and which stocks or mutual funds to invest in
  • Punish companies with negative business practices by switching to other company’s products or services, consider selling investments in a company’s stock, refusing to work at a company and speaking out against a company among family and friends

These executives obviously need more; to become part of business strategy, corporate citizenship, cause, philanthropy—whatever you call it—“doing good,” let’s say—must deliver business value.  Making any business decision requires a certain value proposition.  And predicting value requires data, numbers, results.  Executives need MEASUREMENT.

When I was an investment banker working with CEOs and CFOs, we built financial models to substantiate our case for why a potential acquisition or merger made sense.  We ran scenarios and used financial analytics to back up our counsel. In business, the bottom line matters.

Now, as a communications and brand strategy associate working with CEOs and CFOs on their cause initiatives, we measure the impact and bottom line outcomes of cause-related initiatives with our new service, the Cone Social/Business Return Indicator(sm).  Because the bottom line still matters.  Executives need data, numbers, results to build the business case for why investing in a social issue and partnering with nonprofits makes sense.  They need MEASUREMENT. They need ROI.

Corporate giving and investments in cause-related initiatives are still on the rise, accelerating beyond the $12.72 billion mark as of this year (Giving USA 2007).  Yet, given the results from BCCCC, much of this “doing good” activity is not part of what executives consider when they are actually making their long term decisions.  Imagine how much more and how much better corporate investments in cause would be if executives actually had the bottom line data to prioritize “doing good” among all of their other business objectives.  Maybe they will actually get it (and give it) then.

--Caryn B. Lazaroff, Former Senior Insights Associate


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