More than half (57 percent) of those working in America’s largest companies feel that their employers should play a more active role in addressing important societal issues, according to new research from opinion research and issues management consultancy Povaddo—and there is even greater support when looking at specific issues like equal opportunity in the workplace, healthcare reform, and renewable energy.

brands must be active in addressing societal issues

The firm’s new study, Corporate America’s POV, also reveals:

  • 50 percent of workers feel their company and/or CEO is facing growing internal and/or external pressure to be more vocal on important societal issues.
  • 45 percent say corporate America’s role in addressing issues is more important than it was a year ago compared to just 11 percent who say less important.
  • 44 percent foresee corporate America’s role in addressing societal issues increasing over the next year; only 18 percent see it decreasing.

“These findings quantify several timely and important questions about how the role of companies is evolving in a world that’s constantly becoming more complex,” said William Stewart, president and founder of Povaddo.

brands must be active in addressing societal issues

Despite these figures, only 35 percent of respondents feel assured that their CEO has a finger on the pulse of employee attitudes towards today’s major societal issues. This is significant because roughly half of those surveyed (45 percent) indicate that the actions a company takes to help influence important societal issues impact their decision to maintain or pursue employment with a company. More specifically, 38 percent say they would be less likely to continue working for the company long-term if their company and/or CEO made zero effort to make a difference on an important societal issue.

“C-suites need to communicate to employees that they’re aware of the important issues facing society; that these topics are on the company’s radar,” said Stewart. “Whether a CEO is perceived to have his or her finger on the pulse of employee attitudes towards important societal issues has a significant impact on how employees view their company and their overall connectedness to it.”

Using a series of segmentation questions, Povaddo estimates that 15 percent of the workforce in corporate America can be categorized as “employee activists.” The survey finds that Millennials are three times more likely than Boomers to fall into this category (26 percent versus nine percent, respectively); there is also a significant gap between those who are in management positions (20 percent) and those who are not (eight percent).

Povaddo defines employee activists as those who meet the following criteria:

  • agree that it’s important to work for a company that’s not afraid to be vocal on important societal issues;
  • would like to see their company and/or CEO be more vocal on important societal issues;
  • strongly agree that it is important to work for a company that shares their values; and
  • are very interested in news, politics, and current events.

brands must be active in addressing societal issues

Povaddo created this survey to benchmark employee attitudes regarding corporate social activism. The firm plans to conduct this survey annually in order to understand the degree to which corporate social activism is increasing or decreasing over time.

See an overview of findings here.
Povaddo conducted an online survey of n=1,236 individuals throughout the United States who work for companies with annual revenues of at least $1 billion. The sample was drawn from Research Now’s panel of over 11 million deeply-profiled individuals. The margin of error associated with a sample of this type is ± 2.8 percent. The survey was fielded April 3-10, 2017. The survey was funded by Povaddo and it was not conducted on behalf of any outside organization. 

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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