Americans Want Higher Corporate Citizenship Responsibility

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Americans have serious and growing concerns about the depth and direction of corporate citizenship by the business community, according to a national opinion survey by GolinHarris.

The recently completed corporate citizenship survey of 2,770 Americans, "Doing Well by Doing Good: The Trajectory of Corporate Citizenship in American Business," asked consumers if they felt U.S. companies are doing enough with regard to corporate citizenship.

"Last year's survey set the bar high for companies and this year we found even greater expectations," said Fred Cook, president and chief executive officer of GolinHarris. "As business moves down the road to economic recovery, Americans are expecting companies to meet and exceed their corporate citizenship obligations. Companies that do so will be rewarded in both the media and the marketplace." Key findings from the survey include:

  • 44 percent of Americans believe corporate citizenship is "heading in the wrong direction" - while less than one-quarter (24%) believe business is heading in the right direction. This represents an 8-point change from last year's results (41% and 29% respectively) and when placed within the context of an improving economy its clear that perceptions and expectations are changing. As business does better at the bottom line, Americans are expecting that brands do better at meeting and exceeding their corporate citizenship obligations.
  • More than 2/3 of consumers (69%) say corporate citizenship is "important to their trust in business" -- Corporate citizenship is an important consideration in trusting a business and this represents a unique opportunity for companies that have embraced corporate citizenship to build trust.
  • 52 percent of Americans are "inclined to start or increase their business due to corporate citizenship." A 9-point increase over last year, corporate citizenship is gaining importance as a means to build brand value, create competitive differentiation, cement stakeholder loyalty and drive preference.

"In the past, corporate citizenship was seen as something unique, a differentiator for businesses and their brands," said Rob Anderson, executive vice president and director of Change, the agency's social marketing practice. "Increasingly, the public is viewing corporate citizenship as an expectation and companies are seeing it as an opportunity, demonstrating that 'doing good' is a smart, pragmatic business strategy for 'doing well.'"

The survey also ranks 75 blue chip companies and brands on their corporate citizenship performance against a series of 12 indicators deemed by consumers to be the most important determinants of good corporate citizenship. The rankings of these companies and brands are featured in the Corporate Citizenship Index (CCI), a powerful, proprietary metric that weighs, integrates and consolidates the full range of corporate citizenship drivers into a single number score that enables "apples-to-apples" comparison. In 2003, GolinHarris evaluated 30 brands in the first annual corporate citizenship survey. This year, McDonald's topped the list, supplanting Ben & Jerry's and rising from fifth place in the 2003 survey.

The top five performers are:

  1. McDonald's
  2. Ben & Jerry's
  3. Johnson & Johnson
  4. Target
  5. United States Parcel Service

Aligning with the issues that matter most to their customers is a critical consideration for companies and brands as they develop and maintain corporate citizenship programs. The following issues ranked at the top of our survey:

  1. Environment, Pollution
  2. Education
  3. Energy Conservation
  4. Human Rights (e.g. - race, gender, lifestyle)
  5. Consumer Rights

Another interesting finding ranks the ways consumers evaluate the sincerity of a company's corporate citizenship efforts. What they learn is impacting their purchase decisions, the stocks they buy, the companies they support, and the recommendations they make to friends and family. The top five most trusted and reliable sources when forming an opinion of a company's corporate citizenship are:

  • My own experience with a company, people, products (49%)
  • Company's reputation, heritage, and track record (46%)
  • Friends, family and co-workers experiences with company, people, products (44%)
  • Reports of scandals, investigations, and lawsuits about company (36%)
  • My own experience with company's corporate citizenship activities (34%

"Doing Well by Doing Good 2004: The Trajectory of Corporate Citizenship and American Business" was designed by GolinHarris research and fielded through InsightExpress, a leading online market research firm. 2,770 online interviews were conducted with Americans in June 2004, with participant demographics weighted and balanced to provide a representative sample and conform to the 2002 U.S. census for gender, age, education, household income, marital status, presence of children age 18 or younger in the household, state of residence and racial/ethic origin. The margin of error is +/- 3%.

Copies of the Executive Summary of "Doing Well by Doing Good: The Trajectory of Corporate Citizenship in American Business" are available for download on, or in hard copy, or via e-mail by contacting Rob Anderson, 703.741.7507, or [email protected].


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