CGAP Briefing Note 9 - UK corporate citizenship in the 21st century

What is the private sector's role in society? Does it extend beyond creating employment, providing goods and services, and generating profit for shareholders?

This briefing paper outlines the history of its wider role, referred to here as corporate citizenship, and, bringing together a new analysis of corporate giving data, focuses specifically on the ways in which UK‑listed companies currently support the communities in which they operate.

The key findings are:

  • Corporate donations to UK charities are estimated at around £1.6 billion annually.
  • Cash donations make up around 70% of the top companies' community support portfolios to good causes and charities in the UK, with the rest being in‑kind: eg donations of goods and services, specialist pro bono contributions and employee time.
  • Donations to good causes and charities in the UK from the top 300 UK‑listed companies are estimated to make up around 70% of their overall worldwide community investment portfolio (excluding major product donations) with the remaining 30% going to causes around the world.
  • Corporate donations by the top givers to UK charities fell by 4.3% in real terms between 2007/08 and 2008/09.
  • Donations to communities around the world fell by 1.4% over the same period (excluding major product donations), and picked up slightly by 0.7% in 2009/10
  • One trend which seems to have been accelerated by the ongoing recession is a shift away from cash donations to in‑kind giving.
  • Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are the top corporate givers; when the large product donations of these companies are taken out of the equation, however, the financial and mining sectors dominate.
  • Reporting of corporate giving is highly variable, with relatively low take‑up of any one standard measure, making accurate assessment of the complete picture difficult.
  • Research evidence suggests that companies with a more social focus do better business in the long run and could help in recession‑proofing those good corporate citizens.


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