Corporate *Civic* Responsibility
A New Opportunity for Business Leadership
The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) holds that businesses should be beneficial to their communities and operate in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner. This typically includes initiatives focused on the environment, education, public health, civil and human rights, or economic development. Almost nobody thinks about domestic American politics.
But ask anyone whether they think the current level of polarization in our politics and the gridlock it creates in Washington is sustainable and most will say that it is not. Just as our natural world is under threat, our civic world is under threat too. It’s hard to see how a business that takes social responsibility seriously shouldn’t also be concerned about the health of our representative democracy, our politics, and our civic life.
A New Dimension of Corporate Responsibility
The concept of Corporate Civic Responsibility (CCR) gives businesses the opportunity to drive positive civic engagement in their communities. Even though most CSR initiatives today do not mention civics specifically, many companies are already being held to a standard for civic responsibility by their stakeholders — whether they realize it or not.
Disillusionment with government and politics is at its highest levels in a lifetime, and stakeholders are looking ever more closely at the political conduct of business. This puts a spotlight on corporate lobbying, campaign contributions, dark money, and political ads, because often there is no example of constructive corporate civic engagement. It’s time to change that.
By embracing a civic role and developing thoughtful strategies for CCR, businesses can earn the right to credibly redefine the criteria by which civic conduct is judged. Without such a strategy, others will set those criteria, putting reputation at risk.
At the core of CCR is the idea that civic health is vital to our future, just like our natural resources. In the same way that our communities need clean water to thrive, they also need politics to function well and allow them to implement public choices on important issues. So when a business seeks to improve the workings of politics itself, it is helping to preserve a vital public resource. This is civic engagement of the best possible kind. It is not about businesses using their political power to advance corporate interests; it is about businesses working with their employees, customers, and community stakeholders to strengthen our democracy.
Corporate Civic Responsibility does not have to be expensive or complex. Businesses can have a positive impact on our nation’s civic health with simple actions such as giving employees time off to vote, encouraging civic volunteerism, and supporting popular, bipartisan political reforms to increase civic participation and ensure election integrity.
At Business for America, we believe that the business community shares responsibility for helping to overcome political polarization and preserve our country’s democratic institutions. By empowering stakeholders as citizens and adding a new dimension to corporate responsibility, CCR is good for businesses, brands, communities — and our country.
Get Involved: CCR Working Group
Business For America is helping businesses explore how to extend their corporate social responsibility to include civic strategies. We invite business leaders and CSR professionals to join our CCR Working Group, kicking off in June 2019.