What does the future of good corporate citizenship look like?

For the third time in a row, the social engagement of the DAX 40 companies is analysed and benchmarked for 2024

The business case for corporate citizenship

Every two or three years, we hold the thermometer up to the corporate citizenship landscape of the DAX 40 companies. In 2024, it is once again time to assess the contribution that companies make to addressing the major challenges of our time by means of their social commitment. To what extent is their contribution strategic and credible? What volume of resources are companies investing and how confident can we be about accurately measuring their impact on society and the environment?

Proceed directly to the study

The new study „Corporate Citizenship: Transforming from an outsider to a centre of competence in sustainable companies“ is based on 26 interviews with CSR managers of DAX companies, discussions with experts on ESG regulation, digital CSR management and employer branding as well as representatives of global civil society and a desktop research of the current annual and sustainability reports of DAX companies. As with the survey (2021) and the initial survey (2017), the status quo and evidence-based insights into the latest developments in corporate citizenship are summarised.

First, the good news: the level of social commitment among the DAX 40 companies remains high. The anticipated post-pandemic decline in resource allocation did not occur. Moreover, corporate citizenship has become more professionalised. It is focusing on fewer but more strategically relevant issues and displays more efficient management and reporting structures. However, the differences between individual companies are huge, and only a few have clearly moved from the midfield to become top performers.

This study provides numerous practical examples of how companies are trying to achieve these goals in different ways and which among them are taking a particularly smart approach to create a win-win situation for the company and for society.

Corporate citizenship: transforming from an outsider to centre of competence in sustainable companies. Photo: Paula Prekopova, unsplash

The following findings are particularly pertinent:

  • The transformation to sustainability within the core business is rapidly gathering momentum. The development of corporate citizenship is proceeding at a slower pace.
  • Companies are formulating more clearly the internal goals that they are pursuing with corporate citizenship. Employee motivation is in first place, followed by image enhancement and support for the sustainability strategy.
  • Corporate citizenship is becoming more closely enmeshed with some of the functional business areas, including the HR, Marketing and Sustainability departments.
  • Many companies are taking a more strategic approach. They are focusing their corporate citizenship efforts on fewer fields of action and make direct reference to the company’s materiality analysis.
  • Companies in the vanguard are creating real win-win situations. They are clearly identifying those areas where they generate added value for society and the company, systematically utilising their assets and entering into long-term partnerships with non-profits.
  • The front-runners are succeeding in positioning corporate citizenship in the ‘sustainability jungle’ of hundreds of ratings and reporting obligations as a distinguishing feature in competitive markets.
  • Corporate volunteering is on the rise. However, the quality varies greatly. When done well, the benefits for society and the company are clearly discernible.
  • Social purpose marketing has increased. But only a few companies approach it in an evidence-based way, with genuine knowledge of the issue and its impact on the various target groups.
  • Impact measurement is complex but is becoming more important. It is the litmus test of what companies really achieve for the benefit of society. Only impact measurement creates the credibility without which none of the above-mentioned goals can be achieved.
Scoring of the DAX 40 companies in the 5 corporate citizenship types: for the first time, three companies are ranked as integrated.

About our new study

Our motivation: In our work, we observe that corporate action is changing every day. In the context of the sustainability meta-trend, an increasing number of our clients and partners are deliberating how to make targeted use of Corporate Citizenship to advance the social and ecological sustainability of their companies, as well as of society as a whole. On the other hand, we are also seeing a lot of yet untapped potential. With this study, we explore our observations in greater detail and provide evidence. Thus, we hope to contribute to making the Corporate Citizenship of German companies more strategic, effective, professional and results-driven.

Questions about the study? Please contact us