International Corporate Philanthropy Day highlights role of corporate giving
The role of corporate philanthropy, shareholders, employees and consumers in addressing society’s problems was highlighted on International Corporate Philanthropy Day (ICPD) on 27th February.
The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) organised the day’s events which included the Board of Boards CEO Conference in New York featuring nearly 60 CEOs from Fortune 500 companies, including special delegations from Brazil and India, who met to discuss the community engagement levels of investors and other stakeholders. They agreed through an interactive session that consumers hold companies accountable for engaging in behaviors that reinforce the well-being of society. CEOs called for better measurement standards for socially sustainable business practices so they could engage investors by communicating programme value.
“The CEOs participating in the session spoke candidly about where they feel pressure, where they see obstacles, and who motivates them to do more,” said Charles Moore, executive director, CECP. “CEOs largely agreed that consumers are active and engaged on community engagement issues and inspire them to do more, while investors are neither motivators nor barriers to CSR efforts.”
CEOs also noted the important role of a stakeholder audience not formally on the conference agenda—employees. Many CEOs noted that employees can do just as much as consumers in motivating companies to contribute to societal well-being. And employees benefit as well. CEOs noted that when a company is deeply engaged in socially sustainable practices, employees report higher levels of engagement and feel connected to a larger purpose.
“The CEOs in the audience took responsibility for change and understood their role in pushing for and leading transformation,” said Margaret Coady, director of CECP. “While they talked about the importance of consumers in keeping companies accountable, they realised their leadership was necessary for providing vision and clarity on that community engagement plan.”
Each year, companies and partners mark the occasion with special programmes, announcements and employee events. This year announcements included:
- Microsoft announcing record employee giving campaign in 2011, hitting $100.5m in donations and matching funds for community organisations and nonprofits.
- A Billion + Change event, hosted by Morgan Stanley, to recognise progress towards the goal of mobilising billions of dollars of skills-based volunteer services by 2013.
Interactive polling among CEOs at the event found the following:
- 59% of CEOs reported they felt consumers were demanding greater levels of transparency regarding their companies’ community engagement initiatives.
- 69% of CEOs felt their companies’ community engagement efforts were rewarded by consumers, yet most cannot measure those rewards.
- 45% of CEOs selected companies as the agent for change in leading progress in the marketplace toward long-term societal well-being, as opposed to consumers (32%), government (18%), investors (0%), and other (5%).
CECP conducts an annual survey of corporate giving in the US. The 2011 edition of Giving in Numbers was based on data from 184 companies including 63 of the top 100 in the Fortune 500. It found that 50% of companies had increased giving between 2007 and 2010 and 45% had decreased with 5% remaining flat. In total the respondents gave over $15.5bn in cash and gifts in kind. Health, education and community and economic development were the top priorities. Hardship in local communities prompted companies to support basic health and social service programmes. Employee engagement programmes were also popular in a bid to retain talented staff.
In comparison, company giving in the UK remained steady as a percentage of pre-tax profits but fell significantly in value terms, with an increasing amount of donations being made in-kind, according to research from the Directory for Social Change (DSC).
The 8th edition of The Guide to UK Company Giving shows that the top 600 companies gave around £762m in community support in 2009/10. £512m (68%) was in cash donations. The previous edition (2007/08) included only 490 companies, who together gave £808m in community support, with £500m (62%) in cash donations.
New figures on corporate giving to the arts in the UK, from Arts & Business, show a fall of 7%. Download Giving in Numbers for free here