Environment Still Missing from CSR Agenda in US
21 June 2007 at 3:32 pm
Americans continue to define Corporate Social Responsibility as treating employees well despite the constant drumbeat of news coverage on environmental issues such as global warming, carbon offsetting, and sustainable development, according to a new survey.
A US public opinion survey commissioned by Fleishman-Hillard Inc. and the National Consumers League (NCL) reveals that the extensive focus on environmental issues in the media and by corporations does not necessarily reflect a substantial percentage of Americans’ expectations of what it means for a company to be socially responsible.
The survey examined the expectations that the public has of corporate America and the factors that drive those beliefs and attitudes, including Americans’ willingness to have government step in to ensure social responsibility.
The survey also tracked the role that media and technology play in informing people about what companies are doing to be socially responsible.
For the second year in a row, respondents say that when it comes to how they define CSR a company’s treatment of its employees and its involvement in the community count more than its environmental stewardship. In addition, nearly 40% of Americans indicate that treatment of employees is more important to them than a company going beyond the law to protect the environment (15%).
The survey also finds that Americans expect companies to be actively engaged in the communities in which they operate, going beyond just making charitable contributions. When asked what expectations they have for companies doing business in their own communities, three times as many respondents cited such non-financial contributions as community involvement and volunteerism, over financial contributions.
A majority of Americans identify the Internet as their top source of information about the CSR record of companies in their communities. In addition, of those respondents using online resources for CSR-related research, 73% have used Internet search engines, such as Google or Yahoo!, 57% have used Web sites of independent groups, and close to half have used corporate Web sites.
More than one-fourth of respondents who use the Internet to learn about a company’s CSR record are specifically turning to blogs or podcasts set up by customers or non-management employees of companies.
This finding represents a 100 percent increase over last year’s results.
As in last year’s survey, more than three-quarters of surveyed Americans give U.S. companies less-than-high marks in the area of operating in a socially responsible manner. And a majority of Americans believe that certain sectors — specifically, the energy, food, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries — need more government oversight than other industries to ensure that they are operating in a socially responsible way.
In addition to looking for more government oversight, 77% believe that there is a need for global standards for corporate social responsibility (an increase of 12 % over last year’s results). Furthermore, two-thirds indicate that they would make purchasing decisions in favour of a company that met such global standards.
Fleishman-Hillard is a leading public relations firms operating in 80 offices around the world including Australia.
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is the oldest consumer advocacy organisation in the US.