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Profile of the Practice 2008


Managing a company’s role in society is becoming a formal part of corporate structure and management practice, with many companies internalizing the function into corporate departments and cross functional teams.

These are the findings of data the Boston College Center collected from global companies in a variety of industries in 2008 in pursuit of an answer to the frequently asked question: “How do companies organize staff to meet the demands of corporate citizenship?” The survey results reveal several common models, and that departments dedicated to corporate citizenship or corporate social responsibility are beginning to emerge.

The findings are reported in “Structure and Strategies, Profile of the Practice 2008: Managing Corporate Citizenship,” which is based on survey data from 330 global corporations, most based in North America. In addition to organizational structure, the research focused on how companies manage multiple and sometimes conflicting responsibilities to their many stakeholders.

“This groundbreaking research provides us an important baseline that we will follow on a biennial basis,” said Boston College Center Executive Director Bradley K. Googins, Ph.D. “The picture emerging suggests companies will continue to formalize the corporate citizenship functions, although most still do it in a manner very idiosyncratic to the firm.”

In examining the management systems associated with corporate citizenship, the Boston College researchers contend the field is in an early stage. They find it is still struggling with agreement on definitions and terms and has not yet reached consensus on what should be included within its boundaries. The research findings regarding management systems include:

  • Corporate citizenship is not strongly linked to strategy or business plans in most companies
  • Top management identifies corporate citizenship as important but in most companies does not exercise significant leadership on the issue
  • Employees are seen as the most influential stakeholders for citizenship but inside the company are seen as the least informed
  • Boards of directors are just beginning to focus on corporate citizenship issues
  • Measurement and use of measures of corporate citizenship are weak
  • Minimal training is being done at every level on the relevance of citizenship to the success of the business

These management trends from this survey mirror the findings of the Center’s 2007 State of Corporate Citizenship in the United States that found substantial gaps in the practice of citizenship.

While the survey reveals much about what is lacking in the management of corporate citizenship, it also gives some indications of what management structure and strategies are associated with higher performing citizenship. Higher level leadership, cross-functional teamwork and dedicated department management are attributes seen in companies that have demonstrated strong performance.

Definitive answers on the “best” way for individual companies to manage corporate citizenship remain to be found. But going forward, this report offers food for thought on emerging questions about what path corporate citizenship will follow as more companies embed citizenship responsibilities into their formal organization.

The research also resulted in three companion case studies that look at how companies are managing corporate citizenship to incorporate it into existing organizational structure and management mechanisms. These profiles offer practitioners insider insight into the practice of corporate citizenship complete with success strategies and challenges to learn from:

Boeing case study A New Corporate Citizenship Focus Takes Wing at Boeing
In recent years Boeing has been evaluating the company’s role as a business in society. As part of that process, the company has focused on building a more active and responsive internal practice in global corporate citizenship, moving beyond philanthropy to a broader concept of corporate citizenship. These changes draw strength from, and are dependent on, support from top leadership as well as a new generation of employees.

KPMG CoverKPMG Brings ‘People Agenda’ to Global Corporate Citizenship
A Big Four audit, tax, and advisory services provider, KPMG is a global network of independent member firms spanning 145 countries. KPMG has recently created a central international corporate citizenship function to unite the organization worldwide around a common vision in hopes of setting the pace on corporate citizenship. The lessons learned from KPMG member firms’ experience can serve as a roadmap for any company working toward unifying diverse corporate citizenship activities into a common strategy.

UPS Case Study

UPS Delivers on Corporate Citizenship
At UPS, a company with a 100-year old history of strong ethics and values, a unique corporate citizenship function has been created slowly and organically. Without a formal executive mandate, a cross-functional group coalesced over the past six years to create a company-wide approach to citizenship. The UPS sustainability committee has achieved many successes over this period as it has worked in harmony with existing UPS culture and values of equality, employee development, community involvement, consensus and measurement. Based on strong relationships and dynamic communications, the group has moved UPS into a leadership position in corporate citizenship.

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