Leading Corporations Gained Competitive Advantage through Societal Engagement Programs

Largest societal engagement survey of 272 companies demonstrates recognition of connection between corporate social responsibility and building a strong business
Jun 2, 2016 11:00 AM ET

New York, NY June 2, 2016 /3BL Media/ - In the most complete annual analysis of corporate societal engagement, CECP, in association with The Conference Board, found in their annual Giving in Numbers survey that companies actively changed the structure of their business to capitalize on the clear-cut competitive advantage of societal investment. Companies in the survey expanded six business-boosting strategies:

  • Investors: Companies shared information on societal commitments as an indicator of business strength; 56 percent of companies reported environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information to investors or the company’s investor relations department.
  • Employees: Employee volunteer participation rate with their company’s community efforts continued to rise to 33% in 2015 from 28% in 2013. Further, when those who led volunteer efforts reported to the External/Public/Corporate Affairs department, the rate was highest at 39%.
  • Elevation of the Role: As companies saw the bottom-line benefits from community involvement efforts, giving teams expanded. Full-time giving team employees rose 3% from 2013 to 2015, while total number of employees dropped 2%, demonstrating resiliency of giving teams.
  • Measurement: Measuring outcomes became a more widespread practice. Demonstrating impact and transparency is critical for companies, and as such 87% of companies measured social outcomes and/or impacts of at least one grant in 2015, up from 79% in 2013. Most commonly, they focus outcomes measurement on strategic programs.
  • Impact Investing: Companies that took part in impact investing more deeply supported community programs; median total giving for companies active with impact investing contributed more--$25.7 million--compared to those not active—$15 million.
  • Trust: Companies saw building trust with consumers and other stakeholders as a goal of their societal engagement programs; 55% of companies used increased trust as a benchmark of success for their investments in the community.

CECP releases each year the Giving in Numbers Brief infographic to convey significant survey findings.

Additional results show that giving remained stable for companies in aggregate: Median total giving slightly increased in 2015 when compared to 2013 (1%). Within that stability, some industries saw increases: the consumer staples industry increased its median total giving not only in absolute terms but also as a proportion of revenues and pre-tax profits. During the 2016 survey period, CECP heard from a record 272 multi-billion dollar companies with aggregate revenues of USD$7.5 trillion and total spending on corporate societal engagement of USD$24.5 billion.

“Results from Giving in Numbers act as a barometer for what it will take for companies to be industry-leaders in the coming decades,” stated Daryl Brewster, CEO, CECP, a coalition of 150 CEOs who are a force for good. “Companies at the forefront of the movement to create a better world through business are seeing the advantages of community engagement. We applaud these companies and encourage them to further integrate societal improvement as an essential measure of business value.”

“CECP’s data is showing that corporate societal engagement has moved from business case to business imperative, with companies and shareholders recognizing the impact community investments have on financial performance,” said Carmen Perez, Director, Evaluation and Data Insights, CECP. “Through our survey results, we can gauge that companies are seeing the results of their commitments resonate through all parts of the business: greater volunteer participation, increased interest from new stakeholders, and an indicator of financial performance.”

“The latest findings from the Giving in Numbers survey support other evidence from The Conference Board that investors are paying attention to the ways in which companies contribute to society,” said Jonathan Spector, CEO, The Conference Board. “For example, our Proxy Voting Analytics research has found that shareholder resolutions on social and environmental policy have risen to unprecedented levels in recent years. Pressing questions are being asked of companies and they’re increasingly in a position to respond confidently.”

Giving in Numbers Fast Facts:

  • 272 multi-billion dollar companies
    • Aggregate 2015 revenues (all companies): $7.5 trillion
    • Median 2015 revenue (represents one company): $14.5 billion
    • 62 of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500 participated
    • All 10 sectors represented: Communications, Consumer Staples, Consumer Discretionary, Energy, Financials, Health Care, Industrials, Materials, Technology, and Utilities 
    • All data were company-reported via an online 30 question survey
  • ​​​Growth and Performance
    • ​​Total giving grew for 47% of companies from 2013 to 2015
    • Companies that increased giving by 10% or more from 2013 to 2015 showed a pre-tax profit growth rate of 2.6% and revenue growth rate of 8.3% (medians), out-performing all other companies
  • Total Giving Levels: 2015
    • Total giving: $15.9 million (median)
    • Top quartile total giving: $47.9 million (minimum to be in the top 25% of companies on this measure)
    • Total giving as a percentage of revenue: 0.11% (median) 
    • Top quartile total giving as a percentage of revenue: 0.21% (minimum to be in the top 25% of companies on this measure)
  • Total Giving Portfolio Breakdown: 2015
    • CONTRIBUTION TYPE: 33% foundation cash + 49% direct cash (all other corporate budgets) + 18% non-cash (product, service, pro bono, and other contributions) = total giving (represents one company, average percentages)
      • 8 out of 10 companies had a corporate foundation
    • CAUSE: 29% of total giving went to Education (Higher and K-12), the program area that holds the top spot. Next, 26% went to Health and Social Service programs followed by 13% to Community and Economic Development (per company, average percentages)
    • EMPLOYEE GIVING: Corporate matches of employee donations were 12% of total corporate cash contributions (median)
    • GLOBAL: 65% of companies gave to recipients abroad (outside corporate headquarters country)
      • Among companies that give internationally, 19% of total giving went to recipients abroad (average)
  • Employee Giving and Volunteering: 2015
    • 6 out of 10 companies offered paid-release time volunteer programs
    • 9 out of 10 companies offered an employee matching program
      • The bulk of matching gift dollars were given through workplace giving campaigns and/or through use of a year-round matching policy
    • ​Average participation rate of employees volunteering one hour on company time was 31%; top quartile participation rate was 50%
  • ​​Results
    • ​The sector is increasingly measuring results, percentage of companies measuring outcomes or impacts was up: 79% to 87% from 2013 to 2015
  • ​Team Size: 2015
    • Corporate societal engagement teams had 8 full-time employees (median)

Key insights from the 2015 Giving in Numbers survey were released in front of an audience of 250 corporate societal engagement professionals at the CECP Summit.

Custom analysis of the data is available to CECP-affiliated companies at no additional cost; these companies can access data through CECP’s secure online portal or by calling CECP. 2015 data is now available online. 

CECP is grateful to Newman's Own Foundation, Travelers, and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP for their support in making Giving in Numbers possible.

Note to Editors: Carmen Perez is available for comment and a more in depth look at the community investment data collected from 272 of the world’s largest companies.



CECP is a coalition of CEOs united in the belief that societal improvement is an essential measure of business performance. Founded in 1999 by Paul Newman and other business leaders, CECP has grown to a movement of 150 CEOs of the world’s largest companies across all industries. Revenues of engaged companies sum to $7 trillion annually. A nonprofit organization, CECP offers participating companies one-on-one consultation, networking events, exclusive data, media support and case studies on corporate engagement. For more information, visit http://cecp.co



The Conference Board is a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest. Our mission is unique: To provide the world’s leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society. The Conference Board is a non-advocacy, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org