CEO Report Card on Social Role
20 February 2003 at 12:02 pm
International companies are taking their environmental and social commitments more seriously, according to a survey of top CEOs released by the World Economic Forum.
The report, developed by the World Economic Forum’s Global Corporate Citizenship Initiative (GCCI), profiles practical examples of leadership in corporate citizenship.
It is based on the findings of a CEO survey sent to the signatories of the GCCI’s Joint CEO Statement on Global Corporate Citizenship, launched in New York in January 2002 and reported by Pro Bono Australia.
The Statement, which has been endorsed by more than 40 CEOs, provides guidelines for how CEOs can exert leadership on corporate responsibility and sustainable development within their companies.
The survey details how many of these CEOs and companies, drawn from 18 industries and 16 countries, are “walking the talk” of corporate citizenship on a global basis.
Key findings include:
1. Companies are beginning to look at corporate citizenship from a more strategic perspective – there is a growing link with their corporate governance structures. Most of the companies surveyed have established governance structures and processes at the board level or senior executive level to monitor the company’s wider social, economic and environmental performance.
2. There is a major emphasis on internal processes: 90% of CEOs listed the internal communication of values and policies as a key tool in embedding corporate citizenship through the management structure. Furthermore, although “managing reputation and brand equity” was selected as the most important factor in making the business case for corporate citizenship activities, “attracting, motivating and retaining talented employees” came a strong second, and employees were also selected as the most important stakeholder group for the companies’ corporate citizenship activities.
3. Corporate Citizenship is a global phenomenon: In fact, the survey results emphasise that regardless of the culture and ownership structure, a values-based approach to leadership emerges as a common aspiration. Some of the most innovative practices are being undertaken in developing countries.
4. All CEOs surveyed were playing a leading role in different types of global governance initiatives/structures addressing specific challenges of governance and development that cannot be tackled by business or governments acting alone. Some of these are issue-specific, others are driven by the concerns of a particular industry or geography. Some are business-led coalitions, others multi-stakeholder alliances. Most of them “go beyond business as usual”, representing a fundamentally new approach to problem-solving and governance that is likely to grow in importance.
The companies contributing to the Report on Corporate Citizenship do business in 18 sectors: automobile, banking, clothing and footwear, conglomerates, construction, electronics, food and beverage, household packaged goods, insurance, logistics and transportation, media and communications, mining and metals, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, professional services, retailing, travel and tourism and utilities.
The companies are headquartered in 16 countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, UK and USA.
Launched at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in New York in January 2002, the CEO Statement, Global Corporate Citizenship: The Leadership Challenge for CEOs and Boards, was developed by a task force of Forum member companies. It is a joint leadership statement, a message from the signatory CEOs to their peers about the importance of corporate citizenship, regardless of their industry sector or geographical location.
Furthermore, the Statement recommends a framework for action that business executives can use to develop a strategy for managing their company’s impact on society and its relationships with stakeholders. The aim is not to focus on specific definitions of corporate citizenship, but to emphasise that the issues are not an “add-on” but fundamental to core business operations and to identify some of the key leadership actions that can be adapted by most business leaders to their own circumstances. The Statement is currently endorsed by more than 40 business executives.
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