Companies Linking Societal Engagement to Performance, Report Finds

With the growing recognition that long-term business performance is tied to social responsibility, companies increasingly are boosting the budgets and profiles of their community engagement efforts, a report from CECP and the Conference Board finds.

Based on a survey of more than two hundred multibillion-dollar corporations, the report, Giving in Numbers: 2016 Edition (50 pages, PDF), found that 35 percent of the companies in the survey increased their total giving by at least 10 percent between 2013 and 2015; those companies also saw higher median growth rates in terms of both revenue (8.3 percent vs. -2.3 percent) and pre-tax profit (2.6 percent vs. -0.3 percent) than those that did not increase giving. Reasons for the increase in corporate giving included greater participation in employee engagement programs, improved tracking and measurement, and an explicit business decision to boost giving. According to the report, the number of full-time community engagement staff employed by companies also increased, by 3 percent, between 2013 and 2015, while nearly a third (29 percent) of companies restructured their operation to more closely align their corporate giving teams with the CEO's office.

Now in its eleventh edition, the annual survey found that 55 percent of respondents said building trust with consumers and other stakeholders was a goal of their societal engagement programs; 33 percent were "somewhat" or "highly" involved in impact investing; and a company's giving levels and commitment to making impact investments are positively correlated. In addition, the report noted that CEOs surveyed at CECP's Board of Boards meetings increasingly value the ability to attract purpose-oriented human capital (63 percent, up from 55 percent in 2015) as the greatest benefit of corporate social investment.

"With employees and customers increasingly rewarding responsible businesses, companies are underpinning their business strategies and brands with purpose," said Conference Board CEO Jonathan Spector. "The data show those efforts starting to pay off, so it's no surprise to see companies doubling down on their community engagement by expanding teams and giving department leaders more of an audience with the CEO."