During August, MORI again conducted its annual survey of attitudes to corporate social responsibility, the seventh year running. After a year of ‘fat cat’ and other media controversies, there is some good news for CCI practicioners. Topline findings show that while the public remain concerned about business behaviour, the number saying that companies’ social responsibilities are at least of equal importance to their corporate responsibilities has increased. Furthermore, compared to last year, a company’s activities in society and the community is more important in forming an opinion about the company, while, for the first time in six years, scepticism about the reasons behind community involvement has dropped.
Detailed findings of the 1996 survey on reputation show:
– two thirds (66%) say that industry and commerce do not pay enough attention to their social responsibilities;
– one in three (34%) say that a company’s activities in society and the community are very important in forming an opinion about that company and a further half (48%) say they are fairly important; this total of 82% is slightly up on last year’s 79%;
– six out of seven (86%) agree that a company which supports society and the community is probably a good company to work for, including nearly three in ten (27%) who strongly agree.
So corporate social responsibility helps to build reputation. However opinions differ about the motivation for corporate involvement. Around half the general public accept the bargain that companies supporting society and the community are giving real help but can expect to benefit themselves, and the trend is in this direction. The proportion of those expressing scepticism has fallen:
– 49% say companies give real help but can expect to benefit, up from 46% last year;
– 35% say companies give very little help while trying to claim a lot of benefit, down from 39% last year;
– only 5% say it is all an attempt to cover up anti-social activities.
Many companies look to influence not so much the general public as opinion leaders. MORI has identified a sub-category, “activists”, for whom corporate social responsibility is even more important. Activists are people who get involved: they write to the newspapers, lobby their MPs, vote in elections, become active members of voluntary organisations or help on fundraising drives. They are twice as likely as the general public to be in the AB social categories and to read broadsheet newspapers.
For them, corporate social responsibility is particularly important:
– more than half (52%) say that a company’s activities in society and the community are very important in forming an opinion about that company, compared to 34% of the general public;
– more than three quarters (80%) say that industry and commerce do not pay enough attention to their social responsibilities, compared to 66% of the general public
– But if they have higher expectations, they are not dramatically more sceptical of companies’ current behaviour:
– 38% say companies give very little help while trying to claim a lot of benefit, compared to 35% of the general public.
And it is not just activists who have higher expectations of responsible behaviour from companies. A separate MORI survey shows 85% of opposition MPs agree with the proposition that companies do not pay enough attention to such issues; this is the mirror image of Conservative MPs, 80% of whom disagreed.
For more information, contact Charlotte Hines or Stephen Welch on 0171 928 5955
Note: the 1996 MORI Annual Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility was carried out among a nationally representative sample of 1,948 people aged 15 or over, interviewed face-to-face in their homes across Britain. Interviewing was conducted between August 20-25, 1996.
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 30 – October, 1996
The authors are researchers at MORI.