Australian Corporate Citizens ‘Lagging Behind’
Tuesday, 17th April 2001 at 1:04 pm
Corporate citizenship as a concept that is understood to be mostly about community activities is considered by corporate Australia to be important but there is a strong sense that Australia is lagging behind other countries.
That’s the findings of a survey of Australian business by the Corporate Citizenship Research unit at Deakin University in Victoria.
The study targeted 200 Australian companies to find out how they understood, incorporated and practised corporate citizenship. 98 companies completed the survey.
The survey report by Professor David Birch and Professor Jonathon Batten shows that corporate citizenship is seen by most companies as generally synonymous with corporate community activity but it is not perceived as being embedded in the mainstream core business policies and practices of a company.
The researchers say that environmental issues also play a much more marginal role in a company’s understanding of corporate citizenship than community involvement generally.
The study says that environmental issues were not seen as core to most companies’ culture, with few companies being prepared to risk affecting the financial bottom line in favour of the natural environment, or indeed, within the company itself.
It found a repeated theme where everything is measured against profitability with there being little understanding of how to make a triple bottom line approach work.
Overall the survey found that there was considerable hesitation in positioning corporate citizenship as a proactive, long term, internal corporate culture process.
The survey found most approaches to community activities were based on a short-term approach and says there is considerable hesitation again to fund long-term community involvement. It found that a little over 20 percent of companies surveyed were interested in business/community partnerships.
It says there is also clear concern about funding programs which involve a redirection of staff away from core business activity, either in pro bono work, in-kind contributions, executive loans and a nervousness, perhaps, about committing to matched giving programs where the outlay will not be known in advance unless the company sets a limit.
The researchers say there is clearly a willingness to engage in corporate citizenship, but Australia is lagging behind other countries and significant links have yet to be made by corporate Australia to have the financial, social, and environmental bottom lines connect at every level within the company.
It concludes that corporate Australia clearly does not yet have the confidence to translate its positive aspirations about corporate citizenship into daily business practice.