By Narayan Ammachchi
When it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability, U.S. businesses trail their global counterparts, a new survey from Duke University finds.
Nearly 50 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) responded to the survey in the United States rated CSR and sustainability as ‘moderately important or very important items’ in their business strategies. By contrast, the rating in Europe is 63 percent, 67 percent in Asia, 76 percent in Latin America and 83 percent in Africa.
The U.S. companies said they engage in CSR to improve external image and brand (61 percent), to improve employee morale and hiring (49 percent) and in response to legal or regulatory requirements (28 percent.)
“U.S. companies are split on the importance of corporate social responsibility,” said survey director John Graham, a professor of finance at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. “While concern about CSR has undoubtedly increased in the U.S. during the past decade, our results indicate that these objectives have not permeated the entire corporate sector.”
Those who did not engage in CSR cited lack of resources and lack of demand from stakeholders. The survey, which spanned six continents, was concluded on May 31.
But the survey found U.S. CFOs optimistic about the business growth. More optimistic still were the CFOs in Latin America, where 66 percent of respondents expressed optimism about the growth.
Despite the jump in optimism, U.S. companies are looking to increase spending by only 6 percent and hiring by 1 percent over the next 12 months.
“It’s noteworthy that, in the U.S., CFOs’ perceptions of their own companies’ prospects are remaining stable, but are n’t surging forward as quickly as their perceptions of the broader economy,” said Celina Rogers, vice president of research at CFO Publishing. “This may be an indication that companies are being cautious about their own plans until they have more assurance that the economic improvement they expect to see will last.”
More than one-third of Asian and Latin American financial executives said business corruption (fraud or bribery, for example) could hinder economic development. Approximately one-in-five European, Asian and Latin American firms (30 percent in Brazil) reported that they had felt external pressure to reduce executive pay.