U.S. investors lack interest in companies doing good

Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:24am EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Top U.S. chief executives lamented on Monday a lack of interest from investors in their efforts to do social good and suggested the creation of a social responsibility index of companies that would help educate shareholders on the value of philanthropy.

With global economic uncertainty tightening government purse strings, about 70 chief executives who met in New York for a Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy conference said business leaders had to step up to help tackle the world's woes.

Corporate philanthropy is no longer just writing a check for charity - more executives are making efforts to do social good part a profitable part of their core business.

But business leaders said it was consumers and employees demanding companies do their bit for society, not investors.

"Investors are really not driving this at all. The reality is that when you look at various companies doing earnings calls and the like, you're not getting questions around these kinds of topics," PriceWaterhouseCoopers Chairman Bob Moritz said in an interview after the conference.

"There is an effort needed to educate them both in terms what we're doing but also why we're doing it," Moritz said of investors' lack of interest in corporate social responsibility. "This will not be revolutionary, it will be evolutionary."

Corporations made up 5 percent - or $15 billion - of U.S. giving in 2010, while individuals accounted for 73 percent, giving $211 billion, according to a Giving USA Foundation report researched by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Opinions at the conference were split over whether shareholders wanted more transparency on community engagement initiatives. Forty-eight percent said there was greater demand than five years ago, while 52 percent said it was unchanged, found a poll by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy.   Continued...

A U.S. Mint worker holds new $1 coins at Grand Central Station in New York February 15, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES)