What is Corporate Citizenship—And How Do Corporations Measure Up?

Posted on Fri, July 12, 2013 by Carole Gaudet.

While our students travel the world for summer jobs and internships, the Center staff stays busy planning for the upcoming year, as well as meeting with visitors to programs like Business Bridge. This is a four-week, career-focused program for liberal arts, science, and engineering students who do not have a classroom foundation in business, but are interested in mastering essential business skills and mindsets.

Center for Business and Society Director Pat Palmiotto presented a workshop to Bridge students on corporate responsibility, which she defined as:
The way in which a company frames its core values with a view towards

• minimizing harm
• maximizing benefit
• staying accountable and responsive to key stakeholders
• supporting strong financial results

As a quick exercise, each student quickly perused the website of a randomly assigned corporation. Based upon the information there, Palmiotto asked, how well each one had defined – and fulfilled – its corporate responsibilities? Was there evidence, data, or metrics readily available to support these claims?

Students found that companies fell along a spectrum of approaches towards corporate citizenship. Companies in the “elementary” stage had little awareness of corporate responsibility, offered information only as a defensive technique, and lacked the engagement of top management. “Transforming” companies – the likes of Apple and Patagonia – envisioned themselves as global leaders in the area of corporate citizenship. These companies are the game-changers, changing markets and pushing the envelope, influencing their industries as well as their competitors to get on board with more responsible actions.