Executives Say Impacting Communities is Prime Motivator of Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

- New Weber Shandwick Social Impact Survey Found that 8 in 10 Executives Consider Nonprofits Valuable Partners -

Dec 02, 2010, 09:15 ET from Weber Shandwick

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Having an impact on critical issues is the number one reason why corporations invest in philanthropic or socially responsible activities, according to executives in new research released today by Weber Shandwick's Social Impact specialty group. A second reason given for funding corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the opportunity to see an organization's values in action (25%). The survey of more than 200 corporate executives in large-sized companies with responsibility for philanthropic, social responsibility or community relations was conducted by KRC Research in October.

Interestingly, having an impact on critical issues (30%) outranked several more business-oriented motivations, such as building customer loyalty (15%), differentiating the company from competitors (6%) and engaging and retaining employees (4%).  The latter finding underscores the need for companies to better understand the link between CSR and employee satisfaction.

"We are seeing a shift in how and why corporate social responsibility programs are undertaken," said Weber Shandwick's Social Impact Co-Founder, Paul Massey. "Corporations are looking at community needs and asking how they can narrow and better focus their resources and expertise to foster genuine change on specific critical issues. Given the urgent need for action in the U.S. on vital issues such as education, health and wellness, economic development and environmental sustainability, that's encouraging news."  

Nonprofit Organizations Critical to CSR  

The survey also asked executives about their work with nonprofit organizations. Nearly 60 percent of the executives responding to the survey said that they fund nonprofits. From their point of view, nonprofits are seen as ideal partners because they make their CSR investment more effective, provide a critical foundation and infrastructure, contribute expertise and help engage consumers.  In fact, largely 8-in-10 executives (79%) said nonprofits are "valuable partners."

"The research validates the importance of collaboration and partnership in building successful CSR programs," said Stephanie Bluma, co-founder of Social Impact. "Weber Shandwick's Social Impact team has definitely seen an increase in interest from the corporate sector on how best to leverage new and existing nonprofits partnerships to create enduring and mutually beneficial social impact."

Senior Leadership Drives Success

Nearly all executives reported that strong and vocal support from senior managers (94%) and well-defined objectives and outcomes (91%) are the most important ingredients in creating successful CSR programs.  In addition, 82% said that clearly focusing on a specific area and issue was a critical element in the viability of their CSR efforts. "Developing a clear vision and focus for CSR works best when senior management is at the table to help narrow the choices," said Bluma.

Community Engagement & Communications Work Best Together

More than one in three corporate executives (34%) said that the key takeaway they learned from their organization's implementation of CSR is how it demonstrated their company's commitment and impact within the communities they serve.  Notably, the research also found that the majority of executives (59%) reported an increase in communications around their community involvement over the past 12 months.

"For companies interested in making a positive social impact, the takeaway from this research is clear: well-defined CSR goals matter, as does executive support and strategic communications focused on key stakeholders," said Massey. "The more engagement internally and externally that companies can have with nonprofits, customers and communities regarding their CSR efforts, the greater the likelihood that socially responsible citizenship will continue to rise to the top of corporate agendas and benefit us all."

Weber Shandwick's Social Impact team will release new survey findings early next year on the role of social media and crowd sourcing in helping companies build more effective CSR programs.

Full survey results can be found at impact.webershandwick.com.  

Survey Methodology

KRC Research, research partner to Weber Shandwick Social Impact, surveyed 216 executives in Fortune 200 companies with responsibility for philanthropic, social responsibility or community outreach within their organizations.  The survey was conducted via phone between October 6 and October 22, 2010. The margin of error is +/- 6.8 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

About Weber Shandwick Social Impact

Weber Shandwick's Social Impact practice builds insight-driven communications programs to drive engagement on pressing social issues.  We partner with corporations, nonprofits and foundations to develop strategic platforms and campaigns that reach key audiences with resonant and actionable messages on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and issues spanning global development, education, sustainability, human rights and more. We are story tellers, content creators and advocates.  The team combines the strength of Weber Shandwick's public affairs, corporate, consumer and digital practices. To learn more, visit http://impact.webershandwick.com.  

About KRC Research

KRC Research is a full-service market research firm that specializes in the kind of research needed for effective communications—communications that reach, engage and persuade. A unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG), KRC Research offers the quality and custom service of a small firm along with the reach of a global organization. For over 30 years, we have worked on behalf of corporations, governments, not-for-profits and the communications firms that represent them. Staffed with market research professionals from the worlds of political campaigns, consumer marketing, journalism and academia, we are flexible, practical, creative, knowledgeable and fast, combining sophisticated research tools with real-world communications experience. To learn more, please visit www.krcresearch.com.

About Weber Shandwick  

Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations agency with offices in 74 countries around the world. The firm's success is built on its deep commitment to client service, our people, creativity, collaboration and harnessing the power of Advocates - engaging stakeholders in new and creative ways to build brands and reputation. Weber Shandwick provides strategy and execution across practices such as consumer marketing, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate and crisis management. Its specialized services include digital/social media, advocacy advertising, market research, and corporate responsibility. In 2010, Weber Shandwick was named Global Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report for the second year in a row; an 'Agency of the Decade' by Advertising Age, Large PR Agency of the Year by Bulldog Reporter, a Digital Firm of the Year by PR News, and Top Corporate Responsibility Advisory Firm by CR Magazine. The firm has also won numerous 'best place to work' awards around the world. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit http://www.webershandwick.com.


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