Editorial: Business leaders should consider how their firms can make a difference

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For the past year, IBJ has run a series of sections called Impact Indiana—the last of which (for 2019) is included in this week’s issue. The goal of the stories, columns and Q&As has been to highlight the work that companies are doing to try to strengthen central Indiana.

In March, reporter Lindsey Erdody explained why more public and private companies are getting involved in the biggest political and social issues of the day, including questions about LGBT rights, funding for pre-kindergarten programs and mass transit.

In June, Erdody detailed the ways in which more companies are encouraging employees to volunteer—and giving those employees more say in how and where they do so.

And this week, she explores the investments that companies are making in neighborhoods to help residents start new businesses, improve education and support not-for-profits.

To round out the stories, IBJ has included the voices of executives from area organizations—including Eli Lilly and Co., JPMorgan Chase, Cummins and PNC—who explain why their companies are getting involved.

Indianapolis-area public officials and not-for-profit organizations should be proud to have a variety of corporate partners—large and small—helping with the work they are trying to do.

But many companies are not as involved as they could be. Many are not thinking about how they can leverage their assets—including their most valuable asset, their workforce—to help solve problems and improve the lives of so many Hoosiers.

That’s not meant to be judgmental. The work of running a successful business and managing staff and dealing with the ups and downs of the economy can be all-consuming.

But we hope the series—which has been packed full of statistics about corporate social responsibility—encourages business leaders to think not just about how encouraging volunteerism or getting involved in social issues can impact the community. It’s also about how such activities can bolster corporate bottom lines.

Studies show that workers—especially younger workers—are interested in companies that get involved in their communities. They are interested in the values companies express through their actions. In fact, 64% of millennials said in a survey for The Work Institute that they would turn down a job offer if the employer didn’t have a strong corporate social responsibility program. And 79% of millennials said they seek out employers who care about how they impact and contribute to society.

Customers care too. Research from New York-based Global Strategy Group found 88% of consumers say it’s appropriate for companies to take a position on protecting the environment, 82% said it’s appropriate for companies to work to improve race relations and 68% favored companies taking a position on gun safety.

A 2017 study about corporate social responsibility by Cone Communications found that 87% of consumers said they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.

When companies become involved in boosting their communities, their neighborhoods and their neighbors, there is only upside. Let’s make that a goal in Indianapolis.•


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