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Studies offer strong evidence that public affairs can have an immense effect on a company's bottom line. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It has been found that consumers make purchasing decisions based on a company's corporate citizenship.
  2. Public affairs can alter a company's general corporate image, an asset that in turn affects business.
  3. There is also evidence of negative consequences of poor corporate citizenship.
It is important to know the power of public affairs and how to make it work for your company.

Consumers make purchasing decisions based on a company's corporate citizenship:

  • Eight in 10 Americans (80%) say that corporate support of causes wins their trust in that company, a 21% increase from 1997.
    Source: 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study (2004)

  • An all-time high of 86% of Americans say they are likely to switch brands, when price and quality are equal, to help support a cause.
    Source: 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study (2004)

  • More than 7 out of 10 Americans (75%) say a company's commitment to causes is important when they decide which products and services to recommend to others.
    Source: 2002 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, The Role of Cause Branding (2002)

  • 92% of Americans today have a more positive image of companies and products that support causes, significantly higher than figures preceding September 2001 (81% in March 2001).
    Source: 2002 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, The Role of Cause Branding (2002)

  • Among shareholders who rated a company's philanthropy favorably, 78% say they will continue to invest in the company.
    Source: National Philanthropy Benchmark Study, Council on Foundations & Walker Information (2002)

  • "The Conference Board found that consumers are willing to back up their expectations with action as well. 46% percent of respondents said that they had carried out a purchase decision in favor of a company, or decided to speak out in favor of a company because of a positive perception of its social responsibility. 49% of respondents said that they had decided not to purchase a product or service from a company, or had spoken critically of a company, because it did not meet their standard for being a socially responsible company."
    Source: Simon Zadek and John Weiser, "Conversations with Disbelievers," (2000)

  • Customers will buy one product over another and are willing to pay more for a product if they know that its producer supports worthy causes.
    Source: Financial Times (1999)

    General corporate image

  • The factors most influencing public impressions of companies are social responsibility (49%), quality/reputation (40%) and business fundamentals (32%). (Findings represent the percent of respondents who mentioned these factors as one of their top two).
    Source: Environics CSR Monitor (2001)

  • 83 percent of Americans reported that companies who support a chosen cause have a more positive image in their minds.
    Source: The Evolution of Cause Branding

  • A survey of the general public in 20 countries found that people hold a company's responsibility to society, environmental and labor practices as more important that its economic contribution.
    Source: Global CSR Monitor (20 Countries), Environics (2001)

  • 89 percent of Americans say that in light of the Enron collapse and WorldCom financial situation, it is more important than ever for companies to be socially responsible.
    Source: 2002 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, The Role of Cause Branding (2002)

  • As the drama surrounding the current corporate scandals continues to unfold, nearly nine in ten Americans (86%) agree that companies should tell them the ways in which they are supporting social issues.
    Source: 2002 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, The Role of Cause Branding (2002)

  • In a study done after the September 11th tragedy, 79% of Americans said that they believe companies have a responsibility to support causes, up from 65% in March of 2001.
    Source: 2001 Cone/Roper Corporate Citizenship Study (2001)

    Negative consequences of poor corporate citizenship

    According to the 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, Americans say they would be likely to react in the following ways if they were to find out about a company's negative corporate citizenship practices:

  • Consider switching to another company's products or services (90%)
  • Speak out against that company among my family and friends (81%)
  • Consider selling my investments in that company's stock (80%)
  • Refuse to invest in that company's stock (80%)
  • Refuse to work at that company (75%)
  • Boycott that company's products or services (73%)
  • Be less loyal to my job at that company (67%)

    The study seems to suggest that now more than ever Americans are placing an importance on companies playing an active role in supporting social needs.

    Corporate Giving

    • In 2004, corporate charitable contributions and in-kind donations equaled $12 billion , an increase of 7.3% (4.5% adjusted for inflation) compared to the revised estimate of $11.18 billion contributed in 2003. Corporate giving in 2004 represents 1.6% of corporate pre-tax profits .
      Source: Giving USA Annual Report for 2004, AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy (2005)
    • While average corporate giving in 2004 was estimated at 1.2% of pre-tax profits, averages can vary from company to company from as high as 18% to as low as 0.3%. Giving USA suggests that what is really important is what is done with the money. Contributions that are made strategically and relate to the corporation's business interests are more sustainable and often have a great impact on the community. The most important question to ask is not "how much?" but rather "what difference would we like to make, and why?"
      Source: Giving USA Annual Report for 2004, AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy (2005)
    • 75% of companies provide some level of cash contributions to support the community. 57% provide goods or services.
      Source: The State of Corporate Citizenship in the U.S. 2003-2004, The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College, 2004

    Employee Volunteer Programs

    81% of respondents to the 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study said that a company's commitment to social issues is important when they decide where to work. Employee volunteer programs are one way that companies can support social causes while subsequently motivating employees and improving loyalty, morale, and skill development.

  • Employees whose companies support social issues are 40% more likely to say they are proud of their company's values and nearly 25% more likely to be loyal to their employers than those whose companies do not have such programs.
    Source: 2002 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, The Role of Cause Branding (2002)

  • "A survey of U.S. households finds individuals think more highly of companies that provide employee volunteers, loaned expertise, and active leadership to solve social problems than those that provide grant dollars."
    Source: Yankelovich (1999)

  • "Walker Information... found that a company's Community Engagement activities have a positive effect on the average employees' satisfaction and loyalty. In particular, a company's support of employee volunteerism is a key driver directly influencing employees' feelings about their jobs. For example, employees involved in employer-sponsored community events were 30% more likely to want to continue working for that company and help it be a success."
    Source: Simon Zadek and John Weiser, "Conversations with Disbelievers," (2000)

  • "A 1998 study by the Corporate Citizenship Company found that staff who participated in volunteer programs measured their competency gains with 'before and after' self-assessments. These staff assessed their performance as showing an overall improvement of 17 percent. The supervisors who assessed the same staff rated them as showing an overall improvement of 14 percent. Both findings compared favorably with the ratings of traditional training programs. The top three competencies showing the most development gain were communication skills, collaboration and team-working skills, and creative thinking skills."
    Source: Steve Rochlin, "Making the Business Case for Corporate Community Involvement," (2000)

  • "More than 50% of students would accept lower pay to work for a company they found socially responsible, according to a survey by the Cambridge, MA chapter of Students for Responsible Business, which surveyed students from the country's top business schools."
    Source: Jeff Barbian, "The Charitable Worker," (2001)

    Education: A Noble Cause

  • Aligning with issues that matter most to their customers is a critical consideration for companies as they develop and maintain corporate citizenship programs. The following issues ranked at the top in this survey:
      1. Environment, Pollution
      2. Education
      3. Energy Conservation
      4. Human Rights (race, gender, lifestyle, etc.)
      5. Consumer Rights
    Source: 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, (2004)

  • What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?
      Top non-economic problems
      1. Terrorism
      2. Education/poor education/access to education
      3. Poor healthcare
    Source: The Gallup Organization (May 2003)

  • 37% of U.S. households believe that companies should be held completely responsible for improving education/skills in their communities.
    Source: Environics and The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College, CSR Monitor (2003)

  • For the tenth year in a row, K-12 education has been identified as the most critical societal issue of concern to companies. 48% of corporate support to communities went toward improving education.
    Source: Community Involvement Index 2004, The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College, (2004)

  • Nearly a third of Americans think most highly of companies that support education, and 22% are most impressed by contributions to health causes. But in a survey by Hill and Knowlton and Yankelovich Partners, only 3% said support of the arts makes them think most favorably about a company.
    Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Good Corporate Citizens," (Sept. 9, 1999)

  • "The most effective way for an organization to demonstrate commitment to the community is through long-term support of youth activities, specifically education institutions."
    Source: "Building Loyalty through Community Relations, The Strategist Magazine," Dr. John A. Ledingham and Dr. Stephen D. Bruning, professors of Mass Media and Public Relations at Capital University, Ohio.

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