By John Fleming, Gallup Chief Scientist
Many of the topics of conversation about corporate social responsibility center on the “usual suspects,” such as environmental sustainability, ethical sourcing, “fair trade” practices, good corporate citizenship, financial and investment transparency, and support of charitable causes and organizations, among others. Gallup data, however, suggest that we may want to rethink and expand our definition of socially responsible actions. Specifically, these data suggest that the socially responsible corporate activities that resonate most strongly with customers are those that are local and community-based. And lost in the shuffle among all of the competing activities people tend to discuss is perhaps one of the most important, but often overlooked, socially responsible actions companies can take: creating jobs.
The research in question was not designed to explore corporate social responsibility per se. The aim of the study was to explore the nature of trust in financial institutions in the United States and globally. Gallup research has consistently found an only-in-my-backyard bias in customers’ ratings of confidence in banks and financial institutions. That is, while only 1% or 2% of U.S. financial services customers have “a great deal” of confidence in global and U.S. financial institutions, respectively, 21% have “a great deal” of confidence in their own primary bank.
We wanted to identify those activities that were most strongly related to higher levels of confidence in U.S. banks and financial institutions as well as in customers’ primary banks. We asked about a range of activities in which these organizations could engage, such as support for national charitable organizations, support for local charities, support for local sports teams, community involvement of staff, and so on.
“Having employees that are active and involved in community events” had the largest impact on confidence in one’s own bank while “helping to create jobs” had the largest impact on confidence in U.S. banks overall. The 15% of customers who indicated that their bank’s employees were involved were over six times more likely to have confidence in their bank compared with those whose bank’s employees were not involved. Contributing to national charitable organizations had the smallest impact on confidence in both U.S. banks overall and in one’s own bank.
While these results focus specifically on customer confidence in banking in the United States, they also suggest that broadening our thinking about what constitutes socially responsible corporate activities to include job creation, as well as focusing on local community activities, could be a productive strategy for companies to pursue, particularly from the vantage point of their own customers. Labels: banking, corporate responsibility, financial institutions, social responsibility