Most U.S. Companies Revealed as Corporate Social Responsibility “Deadbeats” by New Echo Research Study - Socially Responsible Investing a “Blind Spot” in US Even as Importance of CSR Grows Worldwide

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U.S. businesses are lagging behind their counterparts in Europe, Australia and South Africa in taking seriously their corporate social responsibility or CSR, according to a new study released today by Echo Research, the global specialists in reputation audit and analysis. While, major U.S. multinationals still lead in philanthropy, they have a “blind spot” that misses the growing importance of CSR to socially responsible investing around the world, the study found.

U.S. businesses are lagging behind their counterparts in Europe, Australia and South Africa in taking seriously their corporate social responsibility or CSR, according to a new study released today by Echo Research, the global specialists in reputation audit and analysis. While, major U.S. multinationals still lead in philanthropy, they have a “blind spot” that misses the growing importance of CSR to socially responsible investing around the world, the study found.

Although financial analysts in several countries are beginning to factor in corporate social responsibility in the evaluation of a company’s investment potential, most U.S. financial organizations, including the majors responsible for tens of billions of dollars, do not consider socially responsible investing in their analysis of corporate performance and value, according the report which is entitled CSR and the Financial Community – Friends or Foes?

“Our report shows that many U.S. enterprises are out of step with the global financial community that rates corporate social responsibility much higher on its agenda,” said Marianne Eisenmann, Managing Director of Echo Research, North America. “The focus on good corporate governance seems to be at the expense of socially responsible investing,” she continued, “which is in sharp contrast with the historical view of U.S. companies as role models of best corporate practice and behavior.”

Corporate social responsibility is generally considered to be the measurable contributions of a company to its communities, on local, national and international levels, over and above its economic impact on them. The Echo Research study revealed that 88 % of U.S. financial institutions do not take socially responsible investing into account in their investment decisions. Only a third consider good CSR can result in better risk management, contrasted with 68% in Europe. “This is a significant corporate blind spot,” Eisenmann said, “which could put some very large U.S. long-term investments at risk.”

While over half of the U.S. companies (56%) want a better measure of corporate social responsibility, the vast majority (89%) expect shareholder pressure to drive socially responsible investing in the future, with or without better measures (against 57% in Europe). With the exception of investors in South Africa, almost two-thirds of respondents oppose regulation for CSR.

The research revealed that Europeans believe that the U.S. has fallen behind on corporate social responsibility, with few companies coming forward to meet ethical index criteria.

The report contains a CSR Prerception Index which lists “Saints and Sinners,” tracking the rise and fall of their corporate reputations over time. In addition, the information used by the financial community to assess corporate social responsibility is identified, as are the elements of an excellent or indifferent CSR report.

The study is the third qualitative study on the perception of corporate social responsibility conducted by Echo Research. The communications research firm interviewed 240 business and financial opinion leaders from the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa. In addition, some 5,432 articles on CSR in the business press of the same countries were assessed for their influence.

Echo Research Group measures the reputation of its clients’ organizations among their different stakeholder groups. Among its clients are one quarter of the Fortune 100 representing key industry sectors, including consumer, financial services, health, IT, telecommunications, media professional services, public sector and NGOs. Echo Research has offices in New York, London, Brussels, Paris and Stockholm.

The full report is available for $700 from Echo Research, tel: (646) 495 5416. Twenty percent of the cost is donated to LC International, a global charity for the disabled. Copies are available at $75 each for libraries and special interest groups and without charge for media. For additional information, go to http://www.echoResearch.com.

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Barbara Burns
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