Last spring, we talked a lot about the impact of the recession on CSR. We looked at news and research on the topic, and we listened to chatter among practitioners. We considered reasons that the recession could increase socially responsible activities among companies (here and here), considered possible negative ramifications of some of these activities, and sometimes wondered why we didn’t see still more companies engaging in win-win activities. I know this is a topic that remains of interest to many of you. Even now, searches like "recession CSR" continue to bring new readers to this blog.
Because of that shared interest, I'm excited to draw your attention to the Boston College Center on Corporate Citizenship's recently released report, "State of Corporate Citizenship 2009: Weathering the storm". This document is the fourth installment in the Center's biennial series. Each report is based on a "survey of the attitudes and actions of senior executives in small, medium and large businesses regarding corporate citizenship."
Some particularly exciting findings, as summarized in the report by Barbara Dyer, President and CEO of The Hitachi Foundation:
- "...over half of these business leaders believe that corporate citizenship is even more important in a recession."
- "Increasingly, companies are aiming to integrate corporate citizenship with their business strategy." (This is something that we discussed in our conversations last spring, and it's also consistent with early research from the Conference Board.)
- "More businesses’ leaders recognize that being a good corporate citizen adds real value to their firm. Particularly when times are desperate, attention is focused like a laser on those matters that contribute value to their bottom line. Most businesses maintained and some others expanded their attention to, and budget for, corporate citizenship. These actions are the strongest evidence that corporate citizenship has met the value-added test for a large and growing segment of U.S. businesses."
Reports like this one make me hopeful. They make me consider that, in the long run, this recession might be a good thing for the field of CSR. I hope that, as companies are faced with both increased social needs and decreased resources available, they will learn to build programs that are truly win-win. These programs will go beyond just looking good in a press release, to be truly embedded in the companies' business strategies. As I've said before, I think that only when companies see CSR as a critical component of achieving their larger business goals will they invest in CSR not as a nice-to-have, but rather at the levels required to enable CSR to fulfill its potential.