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The companies we keep?
May 20, 2010 - 8:08pm

As noted earlier, I confuse easily.

The latest example comes from a Shared Responsibility Study put out by Cone, LLC (whose service mark is "Building Brand Trust"). A summary of the study is free upon registration at their website.

The survey on which the study is based was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation. ORC is highly reputable and, if anything, somewhat conservative in its bias. Thus, I doubt that there's any real bias in the instrument towards corporations needing to act more responsibly. That's a good part of what confuses me.

Highlights of the free summary include such points as

  • 65% of respondents believed that companies should provide substantial support to larger social or environmental issues,
  • 84% hold companies accountable for reducing energy use and GHG emissions,
  • 84% say they want to be engaged in companies' social and environmental efforts,
  • 70% indicate a willingness to participate in survey research to influence companies' social/environmental practices and initiatives,
  • 85% want to be engaged on the topic of how companies do business,
  • 92% believe that business/government/NGO collaboration is either "very" or "somewhat" important to solve social and environmental problems, and
  • 92% want companies to tell consumers what they've done to improve products, services and operations.

Now, the underlying survey was conducted online. The pool of invitees was selected randomly, but the actual participant group almost certainly exhibits some selection bias. (That's why I find it remarkable that 30% of the respondents failed to indicate a willingness to participate in survey research. How does that work?)

Still, I can't figure out how the selection bias would be likely to work. Did a majority of respondents support corporate social responsibility because they don't really believe in neo-liberal capitalism, or do they somehow think that CSR is part of the neo-liberal model? When corporations and government dance together, who do these respondents think is likely to lead? How does the 84% "hold accountable" number on reducing GHG emissions square with the lack of political momentum behind climate legislation?

There are a whole lot more questions running around my mind than I have time to note here. Check out the report summary. Maybe there's a lens on the current context, viewed through which the numbers make sense. To be honest, though, I haven't figured out what it might be.


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