U.S. Chamber of Commerce Report Gauges Private Sector Attitudes on Role in Society

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Report Gauges Private Sector Attitudes on Role in Society

A new U.S. Chamber of Commerce report sheds light on the attitudes, experiences, and expectations of business leaders toward corporate citizenship. The survey delves into the corporate citizenship motivations, challenges, priorities, and investments of 1,189 small, medium, and large businesses across the United States. Responses represent a breadth of industry sectors and geographic regions.

Findings from the survey, produced with The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Corporate Citizenship with support from The Hitachi Foundation, reveal that for today's businesses, the question is no longer if corporate citizenship should be a priority, but rather, how they approach it in the context of their business and the scope of their commitment. In fact, among large companies:
  • 98% believe that corporate citizenship needs to be a priority for companies (81% overall)
  • 91% believe the public has a right to expect good corporate citizenship (69% overall)
  • 84% believe the corporate citizenship makes a tangible contribution to the bottom line (64% overall)
Executives fall into two camps regarding business' role in society. Slightly more than six in ten perceive business as balancing the interests of multiple stakeholders, including investors, employees, consumers, communities, and the environment. The remaining respondents take a more compliant perspective focused on fulfilling employee and shareholder obligations. And while all companies engage in similar corporate citizenship activities, large companies are far more likely to have an expansive definition of their role in society. Among large companies:
  • 64% indicate that corporate citizenship is part of their business strategy (44% overall)
  • 68% have increased investment in corporate citizenship over the past two years (29% overall)
Engagement is largely driven by internal considerations - 73% of companies cite their company's traditions and values as the primary actuating factors -- and few respondents name employees (16%), top management (10%), or middle management (8%) as hindrances in their corporate citizenship efforts. Despite this internal recognition of corporate citizenship importance, 54% of executives report that a lack of resources is their biggest barrier. And while executives clearly view their role as societal stewards as important, the findings suggest a modest gap between executives’ expressed attitudes and the actions companies are actually undertaking.

The findings do reveal that, across the board, companies are actively engaged in public life. Private sector involvement in social issues includes environmental protection, supporting education, and economic development in our poorest communities. The means by which each company relates to society is unique, and there is no one universal corporate citizenship strategy.

Download full text of the report online.