Corporate values statements – An integral part of corporate citizenship?

In her new book “SuperCorp”, Rosabeth Moss Kanter states that “service to society, guided by well-articulated values, is not just a ‘nice to do’ but an integral part of the business models for companies I call the vanguard.” Kanter’s “vanguard” companies that she describes in the book represent a new paradigm for business in which companies achieve economic and social gains through the pursuit of high standards and commitment to finding solutions to problems the public cares about.

Values statements are common in businesses today, and are even beginning to see corporate citizenship showing up in them. A Booz Allen Hamilton/Aspen Institute survey found that 89 percent of companies surveyed globally possess written values statements. In North America, 58 percent of companies surveyed included social responsibility/corporate citizenship in their values statements.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • IBM: Dedication to every client’s success; Innovation that matters, for our company and the world; Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships
  • Timberland: Humanity. Humility. Integrity. Excellence.
  • Omron: Challenge ourselves to always do better, Innovation driven by social needs, Respect for humanity
  • Monster: One Monster, indivisible; Before us, the customer; Do the right thing; Innovate relentlessly; Excellence, served daily; Do well by doing good
  • Novo Nordisk: Accountable, Ambitious, Responsible, Engaged with Stakeholders, Open and Honest, Ready for Change

Why are stated values important?

Having a corporate values statement that makes the company’s commitment to society clear seems to remove many barriers and uncover new opportunities for citizenship. Kanter recounts in her book how Procter & Gamble’s statement of purpose, values, and principles (or “PVP”) propelled its employees to commit to their innovative water purification product even when it failed in the market. Because the initiative was consistent with the company’s statement of purpose, employees found a way to put the product to use in disaster relief situations such as the Asian tsunami. A clear commitment to its values also spurred IBM employees in India to take immediate action to assist in the same disaster, applying their technology as needed to local governments and aid agencies.

Values statements could work wonders for that seemingly unattainable goal of integrating citizenship into the business. When all employees understand and share a value system that includes corporate citizenship, spontaneous action and new innovations for social good may start sprouting everywhere.

Does your company have a values statement committing it to pursue corporate citizenship? Is it working?