The case for companies being more socially responsible and active in the community is greater than ever. MORI’s research among MPs, showing their increased demands on industry to do more in the community, was reviewed in October’s Community Affairs Briefing. This swing, mostly due to the increased number of Labour MPs in the House, is certainly reflected among the British population, according to our latest research, conducted over the summer. These growing expectations must be a key challenge for any company.
Since last year, there has been a significant increase in expectations for business in the community – both in general and for specific companies – among the British public. However seriously individual companies are seen to be taking their responsibility, there is a also a call for increased involvement. This expectation has increased in 1997 for the vast majority of the fifty companies across a range of sectors included in our research.
This year there is also a significant increase in the expectations of companies involving employees in their programmes:
over half (54%) of the British public believe it is extremely or very important for large companies to support employees involvement in the community;
four in five (43%) believe it is extremely or very important to involve employees in supporting community programmes and fund-raising
Both figures show a significant increase among full time workers.
The case for involvement
Involvement does certainly improve a company’s reputation – four in five (81%) feel that knowing about a company’s activities in society and the community is important when judging that company; a third say it is very important. The same high proportions agree that a company that supports society and the community is a good company to work for.
This study also confirms that a company’s community involvement affects purchasing behaviour as well as the overall reputation of the company. A quarter say that it is very important when forming a decision about buying a product or service that company shows a high degree of social responsibility.
Reputation and purchasing can only be affected if the public know what is being done in the community. Despite the importance placed on this, it is clear that the public does not know what companies are doing – less than a third can name at least one specific programme or company initiative. Encouragingly for CCI practitioners, the vast majority of the British public (88%) – as ‘the community’ and customers – do want to know about company involvement and their programmes and schemes.
However, there is the realisation that any communication would come out of community affairs budgets – i.e. the money intended for the involvement. The majority would not want significant amounts spent on communication, but would like to be kept informed anyway. But a quarter feel it is so important that they believe significant amounts should be spent on communicating to the public.
Charlotte Hines is Senior Research Executive at MORI and can be contacted on 0171 410 5505.
Technical Note: This article is based on findings from the 1997 MORI annual Corporate Social Responsibility study carried out between 20 August and 8 September 1997 among a representative sample of c.2,000 British adults aged 15+. Interviewing was conducted face-to-face, in respondents’ homes.
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 37 – December, 1997