Since 2003, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship has examined in the State of Corporate Citizenship study how executives view corporate citizenship and their firms' performance in the environmental, social, and governance dimensions of business. Over the past 14 years, we’ve seen executives come to fully appreciate the vital role that corporate citizenship plays in achieving key business goals.
At the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, we have been busy finishing the analysis of our 2017 study on the executive perspectives about corporate citizenship, and expect the final report to be released in January 2017.
The Center has been surveying executives and reporting on the role of corporate citizenship in achieving business success in our State of Corporate Citizenship study since 2003. Over the past 14 years, much has changed. The global economy has recovered from two historic recessions, markets have become increasingly connected and electronic, and the threat of climate change has come to the forefront of popular consciousness.
A company’s corporate citizenship impact extends beyond its headquarters. To address environmental, social, and governance issues effectively, CSR professionals today must look beyond their own operations and deep into their supply chain. How and where are materials sourced? How are the components of products developed? What are the environmental and human rights ramifications of those processes? Issues as serious as child labor, conflict minerals, and climate change can only be effectively tackled when a company’s commitments to corporate citizenship and reporting are adopted by their suppliers and partners.
The 2014 State of Corporate Citizenship shows that executives are finding more value in corporate citizenship than ever before. This support is imperative to the success of CSR initiatives. Corporate citizenship professionals are increasingly expected to quantitatively demonstrate the impacts of their programs to measure the results of company investments in both the business and social arenas. By evaluating and measuring their programs, corporate citizenship professionals can establish the value of their efforts and obtain the data necessary to continually improve programs—and also gain executive buy-in.
Corporate citizenship professionals know that their work yields both business and social value and recent research conducted at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship shows that executives see investments in environmental and social programs as valuable, too.
In a recent meeting of Center members held at Boston College conversation inevitably turned to “it.”
“What do you call it?”
“How much is its budget?”
“Does it have a senior position?”
“Who does it report into?”
“How are you managing it?”
What is it? “It” is the management of environmental, social, and governance efforts in a corporation. At the Center we call it corporate citizenship but not all companies do. Just to give a few examples from our 2010 Profile of the Practice report: Managing corporate citizenship as a business strategy, 25 percent of companies called it corporate social responsibility, 20 percent corporate citizenship, 14 percent corporate responsibility, and 8 percent sustainability. Perhaps more importantly than what it is called, is the question of how corporate citizenship is being managed to deliver the greatest impact to society and the business. Research for the Center’s next Profile of the Practice report will soon be under way to again examine this topic.
For the people of UnitedHealth Group our business goals and social mission are entwined. To help build healthier communities, we believe it is necessary to be active and responsible citizens. Volunteerism plays a vital role in making this happens, leveraging our greatest asset – our people – in making a difference.
At UnitedHealth Group we invest in workplace volunteerism because it reflects the core values we hold as an organization, and is meaningful to our employees. Last year, 81 percent of our employees and 96 percent of executives volunteered in their local communities.
We’ve also invested in research demonstrating that volunteering is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. In our study with the Optum Institute, Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study, we found that people who volunteer feel better – physically, mentally and emotionally. And volunteers tell us that they are convinced their health is better because of the things they do when they volunteer. Doing good is good for you!
We all know the imperatives that are used to compel corporations to make social and environmental investments. Whether talking about poverty, climate change, food security, or water scarcity – it is clear that we need solutions, and our need becomes more urgent each year.
Corporate decision makers may sometimes agree that those investments are needed but may also feel that they are not appropriate for the corporation to make because they do not see the connection to business success.