Civic Engagement: On The Rise in Corporate America

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Many big corporates make huge donations to charities, yet are still viewed sceptically by the public. It is clear that giving away millions won’t improve a company’s profile or brand; neither is it the best way to drive social change. There has been a real call on businesses globally to create economic value in a way that also stimulates social value. We are now seeing a growing number of companies responding to this ‘ask,’ where they are integrating social issues into the core of their business strategies and changing how they think about their charitable efforts, moving from gifts and grants to strategic community investments that they hope will maximise social and business return. This way of thinking is reflected strongly in the U.S. where civic engagement is on the rise in corporate America.

The Civic 50 survey, commissioned by Points of Light, the National Conference on Citizenship and Bloomberg, identifies the 50 most community-minded companies in the States. It shows more businesses are giving employees the opportunity to work with community organisations and finding that it simultaneously increases their bottom line and employee satisfaction. This survey, in its second year, recognises the top S&P companies that make socially responsible practices and community leadership part of their corporate culture. The businesses listed within The Civic 50 set the standard for how a company’s time, talent and resources can best be used to improve quality of life in the communities where they do business

A few findings from the survey show how companies are connecting the dots between their community work and their business bottom-line. For example, businesses believe that community engagement programs make employees more valuable. Plus, employee skill sets have expanded as a result of employee volunteering and employees are being evaluated on both business performance and their participation in community work. Businesses are seeing that a strong, strategic community program has bottom line benefits-improving a company’s brand, recruitment and sales.

GE has made the list for the second year in a row and as a winning Civic 50 company, it demonstrates the many ways community engagement can enhance business drivers, especially employee skill-development and overall brand. For example, when GE’s corporate audit staff met in Miami for leadership development training, they also carried out a Junior Achievement volunteer project. Over 600 employees participated in the project, and they said that it improved their team work, project management, and negotiation and presentation skills.

Companies like GE show that corporate responsibility isn't about making decisions only when there's an obvious business return from doing good; it is much more: it is about making a long-term commitment. It is about creating an ethical company with like-minded employees who will lift its operations to form a brand that customers and shareholders can trust.  

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