Best Practices in Corporate Citizenship Structures

Companies with strong reputations as corporate citizens are respected for providing value to society in a comprehensive way – through their products and services, their operational excellence, and their support of the community.

As companies face increasing pressure from stakeholders to address complex societal issues, many are developing programs and initiatives with ambitious social impact goals, but often, without the requisite structure to ensure the programs are effective.

An effective approach requires leadership and a structure capable of integrating the corporate citizenship strategy across all levels of the company. However, in many companies, the corporate citizenship department lacks the leadership, staffing, and resources necessary to develop and implement an integrated strategy. As a result, these companies operate under an outdated model, implementing siloed programs, which rely primarily on philanthropy and volunteerism. This approach fails to leverage the full range of skills and resources of the company.

Corporate citizenship leaders are increasingly being tasked by executive leadership with working across departments and business units on a global basis to ensure the company has developed a strong approach to meeting a range of stakeholder expectations. This responsibility has evolved from overseeing programs targeted primarily toward the community and only utilizing philanthropy and volunteers, to a more integrated approach that leverages company skills and resources and addresses the three areas that impact society and drive stakeholder expectations:

• Impact from company products and services
• Impact from company operations
• Impact on communities where the company’s employees live and work

Corporate citizenship companies engaging in best practices are mobilizing products, services, funds and the unique skills, knowledge and power of their employees to engage and collaborate with organizations and leaders in the social sector to tackle complex social issues. As a result, effective companies have evolved their structures to become more integrated with the company’s business. This ensures that the company’s initiatives are unified and productively leverage the power and resources of the company. 

To leverage the power and resources of the company effectively, the corporate citizenship department needs a strong leader at a senior level. This leader would be capable of engaging with the CEO and senior leaders, and have the requisite staff and resources necessary to ensure the achievement of the company’s social impact goals.

Based on interviews with seven companies exhibiting best practices, client experiences, knowledge of the sector, and TCC’s corporate citizenship framework, we’ve identified four key structural elements that can effectively guide a company in the development of their corporate citizenship structure.

  1. The Engagement of the CEO 
    1. The CEO treats corporate citizenship as an important part of the business and is capable of  communicating the company’s approach to corporate citizenship to internal and external stakeholders.
    2. The corporate citizenship leader has access to the CEO on a regular basis and is a member of the senior  leadership team.
  2. The Process for Engaging Senior Leaders
    1. The corporate citizenship department has access to and engagement with senior leaders.
    2. Senior leadership treats corporate citizenship as an important part of the business.
  3. The Role of the Corporate Citizenship Department
    1. The corporate citizenship department is integrated with the company structure and is not siloed within  a department.
    2. The corporate citizenship department has influence over the development of business-driven initiatives  and does not only oversee community-focused programs.
  4. The Staffing of the Corporate Citizenship Department and Functions
    1. There is clear accountability with the corporate citizenship staff around program goals.
    2. The functional roles are integrated to help support the achievement of clearly defined goals.

As companies develop their corporate citizenship approach to align with their purpose and meet increasing stakeholder expectations, their structure should also be improved to ensure effective development and delivery. Commitment by the CEO and senior leadership to integrate corporate citizenship into the operations of the company is essential. Finally, providing the necessary staffing and resources will help to ensure the company’s evolution to becoming a leading corporate citizen.

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