By Melissa J. Anderson

According to the latest global Corporate Responsibility Best Practices survey, the number of global companies with a lead role overseeing CR increased to 62% last year, compared to 42% in 2010. The survey also revealed that 77% of companies plan to grow their corporate responsibility programs in the next three years.

The report, released by Corporate Responsibility Magazine, the Corporate Responsibility Officer Association and NYSE Euronext, is based on a poll of companies on NYSE Euronex Indices, plus other companies within the magazine’s database, reported Environmental Leader.

The study showed that companies are expanding CR programming and recognizing that it does have an impact on their market competitiveness and employee engagement levels. In fact, the study showed, even corporate leadership is working to drive the CR conversation within their companies.

Leadership and Employee Engagement

The study showed that 72% of the companies polled have a formal corporate responsibility program, which has increased from 62% in 2010. Additionally, the survey showed, those companies that do not have a formal program, most frequently said they “believe CR is integrated into other functions or part of the culture.”

In fact, the majority of survey respondents felt that their companies’ leadership and employees were dedicated to corporate responsibility. Almost 80% of respondents said they felt their CEO understands the importance of CR and how it “integrates with operations.” Additionally, the survey said, “82% of CEOs meet with their CR leaders at least once annually, most often monthly or quarterly.”

And CEOs are doing more than just showing tacit report, the survey said. Sixty-six percent of respondents said their CEO had personally driven a CR campaign in the past year.

Additionally, respondents said, one of the top benefits of CR programs is the ability to attract and retain talent. Respondents said that while customers or clients are the “top audience for CR communications,” the organization’s workforce was the second most impacted audience by these activities.

Board engagement when it comes to CR is also increasing. According to the survey, 47% of respondents said their companies had a director responsible for CR-related topics. That percentage has increased from 41% in 2010. Eighty-four percent said “The full Board/ Board committees are briefed on CR-related issues within the company.”

Corporate Responsibility

The amount of commitment companies are showing toward corporate responsibility is surprising, wrote CROA Executive Director Richard J. Crespin, especially given the current economic environment. He explained:

“While a single-minded focus on shareholder value does no one a real service, when it comes to tackling some of our most pressing challenges, companies are often best positioned to make the biggest dent. This year’s CR Best Practices Study bears witness to corporations’ continued investment in corporate responsibility, even in the worst economic times:

  • More respondents are committed to CR than last year
  • More CEOs and boards support CR than last year
  • Growing numbers of large and small companies continue to implement CR programs”

But, he pointed out, while companies may desire to engage in corporate responsibility initiatives and their ability to put them into practice. “A gap persists between companies’ desire and implementation abilities.”

In fact, only 60 of the organizations surveyed had budgets dedicated to corporate responsibility. Additionally, the survey said, while the percentage of companies with formal, budgeted CR programs has grown, there is still a 20% gap between those with a formal program and no budget. And CR spending isn’t large – more than half of the CR budgets reported were less than $500,000 per year.

Finally, the report showed an interesting curve – the companies most likely to say that CR has a positive impact on competitive positioning  were the largest companies and the smallest by revenue. Those in the mid-range were most likely to say they don’t have the ability to measure the impact of CR on their competitiveness in the marketplace.

Similarly, the largest and smallest companies were also the ones to say that CR had a positive impact on profitability, while companies in the mid-range said they did not have the ability to measure it.