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by Aman Singh Das | May 21, 2010


Results from yet another survey hit the market early this week. Conducted by strategy and communications firm, Cone Inc. online through Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) among 1,045 adults comprising 507 men and 538 women, 18 years and older, the survey aims to throw light on the disconnect between consumer sentiments on corporate responsibility, expectations from their employers' involvement in social and environmental issues and effective engagement by companies.

Remember the McKinsey survey that showed us how senior management and executives feel about CSR and sustainability? Here's the excerpt from the survey I had highlighted then:

"Overall, 20% of executives say their companies don't [have a clear definition of sustainability]. Among those that do, the definition varies: 55% define sustainability as the management of issues related to the environment (for example, greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, waste management, green-product development, and water conservation). Another 48% say it includes the management of governance issues (such as complying with regulations, maintaining ethical practices, and meeting accepted industry standards), and 41% say it includes the management of social issues (for instance, working conditions and labor standards)."

Keeping these McKinsey survey findings in mind, take a look at some of more tempting statistics from the Cone survey. What it does, at its very best, is highlight the obvious disconnect between the understanding and expectations of the two survey populations (senior executives and consumers/employees) about corporate responsibility and their role.

Employee Engagement

Survey respondents emphasized an increasing role in key responsible business pillars:

Business decisions: 85%
Products and packaging: 83%
Support of social and environmental issues: 81%
Marketing and advertising: 74%

Stakeholder Engagement can help companies build their bottom line

Further, the survey reported that consumers were prepared to dedicate time and money to help influence corporate social/environmental practices. Some of the top choices for this included:

Surveys and research: 70%
Buying or boycotting a company’s products: 44%
Email, phone or employee communications: 32%

Interestingly the choice that got the least amount of votes was "Join a committee or attend a meeting sponsored by the company" at 16%.

Confusing messages/greenwashing

Over a quarter of the respondents (87%) said that communication from companies is one-sided, with only the positive information shared. Further, 67% of them said company messages about their social and environmental initiatives ended up confusing and convoluted.

Role of Businesses in Social, Environmental and Community Development

There were also some broader questions the survey attempted to answer. One of these addressed what role people thought business must play in society. Thirty-five percent of the survey takers said business exists solely to make money for their shareholders with minimal if any role in the community. (Graph to the left). They also professed high expectations from companies in addressing social and environmental issues.

How? The top three options were developing new products and services (89%), changing the way they operate (88%) and using other company resources beyond charitable dollars to support a nonprofit or issue (86%).

With that said, here is a comparison chart I drew up of the main overlapping themes between the two surveys. I'll leave the conclusion(s) up to you.

The big divide between employer and employee expectations of companies' role in addressing global issues like poverty, social entrepreneurship, climate change and workplace safety.

As always, please feel free to comment, email In Good Company or connect with me on Twitter @VaultCSR.

See the complete results of the 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study.


Filed Under: CSR
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