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  • Lou Killeffer

7 Trends Driving CSR in Post-Election America as “Doing Well, by Doing Good” Evolves

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One of the dynamics the election cycle featured was our continuing conversation about American companies and their role in society. Just what’s the right employer/employee relationship; the right company/community relationship? Who owes what to whom and how is that best expressed and ultimately realized?

Indeed, where are we today and where might we be headed as sophisticated robotics and the gig economy further disrupt if not displace what we thought we all knew? And who, if anyone, is setting the new standard, much less leading by example?

Sure the election’s over but we’re all still voting in the marketplace every day. Putting aside the pundits increasing references to political parties as “brands”, I’ve always believed the purchase of a product was very much a vote, and re-purchase a hard won vote of confidence. Now any CMO will tell you these “votes” are harder and harder to come by and in fact today’s winners may be those who’ve heard and embraced some key consumer influences within the growing impact of corporate social responsibility.

A new study from Britt Power and her colleagues at Global Strategy Group in Manhattan provides some intriguing insight on Corporate Social Responsibility. Their Fourth Annual Study of Business and Politics was conducted a month before the presidential election, among a representative sample of American adults with an accompanying oversample of millenials.

Through the years the GSG Study has shown a continuing shift in our expectations of corporations and their role in and responsibility for taking both a clear stance and real action on any number of issues. In what can only be called an age of transition, with folks largely disenchanted with our political institutions and frustrated by many of our politicians, the public clearly wants leaders and leadership. And they are actively looking to CEOs and their corporations for just such leadership “more than ever before on the pressing issues of the day”.

Consider these highlights from GSG’s Fourth Annual Study of Business and Politics:

1. Americans’ desire for corporate engagement on social and political issues has evolved from a preference to an expectation 84% of Americans believe that businesses “have a responsibility to bring social change on important issues”

2. This is both noteworthy as a trend through time and truly remarkable as it trails only modestly behind the ostensible owners of such issues: the President of the United States (89%) and the US Congress (92%)!!

3. In a nod to both their real and latent power, particularly within an apparent political power vacuum, fully 88% of adults believe corporations have the power to influence social change

4. Further, the public increasingly sees no disconnect between driving profit (i.e., doing well) and doing “good”

  • 79% of Americans agreed that corporations “can succeed at business while also taking a stance on an important issue”

5. And fully 72% in the study believe “taking a stance on important issues” can help a company’s bottom line

6. In addition, addressing social and political issues provides clear opportunity for companies to engage their employees in ways that may deliver uniquely compelling benefits

  • 8 in 10 Americans (83%) and nearly 9 in 10 millennials (88%) believe working for a company whose corporate values “reflect their own” is in fact comparable with far more traditional benefits such as flexible work policies

7. This tracks in significance only just behind “the bonus structure” (imagine that!) and gratifyingly well ahead - as such heavy lifting should - of other au courant “perks” such as snack carts, game, and relaxation and meditation rooms

Acknowledging the powerful aura the recent presidential election may have exerted on these results, still it’s quite clear to me the findings spell explicit opportunity for companies and their leadership.

Leading corporations tend to lead, right? And those that do will increasingly respond to and participate in the social and political issues they deem most appropriate. The implications of such action in a social media rich world will bring new reputational benefits - as well as new strategic communications requirements. All in all, it promises to be quite exciting.

What’s on your company’s CSR agenda for 2017? How will you enable it internally and externally? How will you express and engage on it with your key constituents – your employees, stakeholders, and customers?

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