A new study of the corporate social responsibility field shows that top companies are giving more resources to CSR activities—i.e., corporate philanthropy, community affairs/relations, environmental impact and other measures—than their peers, lending more credence to the notion that socially responsible business practices are indeed good for the bottom line.

The 2013 Profile of the Practice survey, conducted by the Carroll School of Management at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, looked at CSR programs at “above-average industry performers”—companies that led their field in various measures of business performance. A total of 231 companies provided data on their corporate citizenship strategies, operational structures and business practices. Researchers found that industry leaders are much more likely to have a formal corporate citizenship department, a program led at the executive level, and higher budgets for corporate citizenship and charitable giving.

“Corporate citizenship is managed at higher levels, corporate citizenship leaders are better compensated, and more companies establish both board committees and official budgeted departments to manage their programs,” said Katherine Smith, executive director of the BCCCC.

“These are all signs that CSR continues to be more deeply embedded in business as more executives realize that positive environmental, social and governance measures correlate to positive financial performance, improved reputation and solid risk management.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Executive-level leaders. Almost 60 percent of companies have an executive leading the corporate citizenship department, up significantly from 2010, when just a third reported that CSR leaders held the rank of vice president or higher. And almost a third of corporate citizenship leaders are within one level of the chief executive.
  • Greater CEO involvement. The chief executive is more involved than ever in developing CSR strategy, setting goals and communicating results. In fact, more than 25 percent of companies indicate that their chief executive is “highly involved” in corporate citizenship programs.
  • Key business drivers. When considering business goals to which corporate citizenship efforts can contribute, 71 percent cited enhancing reputation among their top three. The next most frequently cited goals were improved employee retention, cited by 45 percent of companies; employee recruitment, cited by 41 percent of companies; and attracting new customers, cited by a third of companies. Based on the amount of financial expenditures, education and the environment are the areas where companies are making the most significant investments with their corporate citizenship programs, the survey found.
  • More resources devoted to CSR. Almost half of the surveyed companies reported that they have five or more employees with corporate citizenship responsibility, compared with 30 percent of companies reporting staffing at that level in 2010. In 2013, 97 percent of companies reported allocating specific operating budgets for corporate citizenship, compared with 81 percent in 2010. And about 30 percent have a budget of at least $1 million (not counting philanthropy budgets) in 2013, compared with 24 percent in 2010, a 25 percent increase in funding.

Taken together, these findings suggest that leading companies are increasingly finding business value in CSR activities and are positioning and resourcing citizenship departments and staff within the company accordingly, the BCCCC said.

The Profile of the Practice survey complements the BCCCC’s Profile of the Profession survey, which it released last summer. In that report, the organization looked at the job satisfaction, professional development, motivations and compensation of people working in corporate citizenship roles, and found that the CSR field is progressing in terms of sophistication and professionalism as companies put more resources into—and expect more results out of—their citizenship programs.

Both reports can be accessed via the organization’s website at www.bcccc.net.