What Is Corporate Citizenship?

Corporate citizenship is how a company aligns its actions to support positive social, economic, and environmental outcomes for the local and global community. 

Recent research from CECP shows consumers, employees, and investors are interested in supporting businesses that take this responsibility seriously. It’s no longer acceptable for companies to focus only on the bottom line. They need to consider their environmental and social impact. 

To be successful, company leaders must think strategically about how to fold strong ethics and values into their business mission. 

Corporate citizenship is the backbone of sustainable growth

To be a good corporate citizen, a company cannot only be focused on shareholders, or people with a financial stake in the business. Decision makers need to consider the impact the business has on all its stakeholders, including employees, the environment, local communities, and everyone along the supply chain. 

Doing so not only improves the public image of a brand, but it ensures that the business will be stronger over the long term. 

During the Impact Studio Conference, Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas, managing director of corporate insights & engagement for CECP, explained how this shift in priorities can support long-term sustainability:

“Companies for generations were focused around what shareholders wanted. And shareholders sometimes were only concerned about the short term. They wanted to be able in the short term see a company increase their profits to a point, see the stock go up so they could sell. They weren’t there for a long-term model. Yes, maybe the company is meeting all minimum regulatory standards, but they’re not necessarily looking at a net-zero future of where the market is potentially headed and where they have to be prepared to operate as a business when the rules might change.”

Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas

Prioritizing corporate citizenship programs encourages company leaders to be proactive in adopting the ethical, legal, social, and environmental measures, which might be optional now, but will shape regulatory compliance for the future.

The ROI of corporate citizenship

Despite the inclusion of the word “corporate,” the principles of corporate citizenship and CSR should be applied to all businesses. Both large corporations and small companies benefit from a set of strong values. 

In fact, companies with strong CSR values tend to outperform those without. That makes sense, as studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for ethically sourced and sustainably produced products. 

Simply put, corporate citizenship is good for your bottom line. You can use socially responsible practices to attract new customers and investors. Plus, strong employee engagement, generous community investment, and sustainable practices are all great ways to differentiate yourself for customers and employees.

Corporate citizenship can strengthen your company’s reputation and boost your marketing efforts. It can also improve customer loyalty, brand recognition, and employee retention.

Corporate citizenship example in action

There’s no one way to put corporate citizenship into action. If you’re looking for inspiration, companies of all sizes are finding ways to show up for their communities. 

For an example of strong corporate citizenship, we turn to Google. Google has laid out a clear vision of how their business practices and technology support sustainability and play a role in creating a better world. 

To fulfill that vision, the company launched Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the business. Google.org combines the people power of the company with innovative technology and funding to help solve some of humanity’s biggest issues. 

Jen Carter, global head of technology & volunteering at Google.org, leads the company’s volunteer efforts, community investment grants, and impact challenges. These programs allow Google to put its values into action. 

Jen shares how she and her team narrow in on specific causes:

“There’s no shortage of things that could occupy our attention. And so it was really critical for us to narrow in on where we think Google and Googlers can add the most value.”

Jen Carter

How to become a good corporate citizen through CSR

Start out by identifying your internal values. From there, you can set priorities, clarify team roles, build relationships with nonprofit and community partners, and create a framework for your CSR programs

Prioritize transparency. Be clear about how and why you choose the structure of your program both internally and externally. It’s much easier to get employees involved when they feel included from the beginning. 

Aim to build programs that are sustainable over the long term. A one-time cash donation to a cause won’t be as impactful as providing long-term support. Think about the ways you can leverage your resources to do even more good. Launch an employee volunteer program, create a relief fund, and spearhead a matching gifts campaign. Donate your product or service to a local nonprofit. And help amplify the voices of community members. 

Long story short: when companies practice corporate citizenship, everyone wins. Employees feel more empowered. Businesses become more resilient for the future. Communities grow stronger. And as a whole, society is more prepared to address big, complex issues that perpetuate injustice.  

Ready to boost your corporate citizenship?

Submittable can help you put great ideas into action.

Laura Steele

Laura Steele is a social impact writer and editor at Submittable focused on the world of grantmaking and corporate giving. Her work often explores the connection between technology, equity, and social good. She also writes fiction and nonfiction. You can read some of her stories and essays at laurapricesteele.com.