Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Talk is cheap, save the world

Sustainability is important, we say. It needs to be a priority, we say again.

Yet our words are not always followed by action - at least when it comes to corporate citizenship and sustainability initiatives.

A survey released by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCCC) and The Hitachi Foundation shows CEOs and other executives support responsible corporate citizenship, at least in principle. The third biennial 2007 State of Corporate Citizenship in the US, "Time to get real: Closing the Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality," studies what CEOs and other business executives say they believe about the importance of corporate citizenship and what policies are actually in place at their businesses.

Although 73% of the 751 top executives surveyed said that corporate citizenship needs to be a priority for businesses, only 39% of the businesses include corporate citizenship as part of their business planning. An even smaller percentage of these businesses (28%) actually have written corporate citizenship policies or statements.

The gap presented here is much more than just words vs. actions. It's actions vs. results. It's nice to say we want to improve our carbon footprint, and reduce our impact on the world around us. But the typical corporation needs more than a "good feeling" to move forward, and rightfully so.

In the face of a possible economic downturn, successful corporate citizenship projects need to be tied directly to financial results for the business. Without that tie, corporate citizenship and sustainability projects could likely become unfunded mandates - or worse.

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