The following is excerpted from the most recent issue of The Corporate Citizen, the Center’s biannual magazine. According to the Center’s 2013 Profile of the Practice, executives are leading the corporate citizenship charge in greater numbers than ever. Among those companies surveyed for the study, a majority of the chief executives are highly engaged in supporting corporate citizenship—and these executives are more involved than ever in developing strategy, setting goals, and communicating corporate citizenship. They are also elevating the management of corporate citizenship programs. Executive leadership of corporate citizenship has doubled in recent years from just 30 percent in 2010 to a majority 60 percent today.
This spring, we at the Center have been visiting member companies around the country. During these visits, one trend worth noting is that an increasing number of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and Chief Operating Officers (COOs) are participating in conversations about corporate citizenship. This is further evidence of the elevation of attention and the increased value placed on corporate citizenship.
Entrepreneurship has existed for as long as human commerce, and enjoys a place of prominence and even romance in cultures around the world. Entrepreneurs inject competition and innovation to existing markets, introduce new products and processes, and create jobs. The entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes startups is still highly valued in established companies, and many of the largest and most successful companies pride themselves on fostering such innovation, agility, and passion.
When I was younger and imagining where my career would take me, the role of Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) did not yet exist in business circles. There were many roles focused on environmental protection but these were largely externally focused on preservation of our resources like trees, minerals and animals. And they did not offer a seat at the board room table – in fact quite the opposite.
Recent research by the Center and others continues to show that support from the top of a firm is essential to the success of your corporate citizenship programs. Securing buy-in from senior executives goes a long way toward integrating corporate citizenship across an organization and demonstrating how it can align with business strategy.
In our most recent signature research report, Profile of the Professionals 2013, survey respondents at middle- and senior-level positions cite a lack of top management buy-in among the greatest challenges they face when trying to implement corporate citizenship programs.