What is 'Corporate Citizenship'

Corporate citizenship involves the social responsibility of businesses and the extent to which they meet legal, ethical and economic responsibilities, as established by shareholders. The goal is to produce higher standards of living and quality of life for the communities that surround them and still maintain profitability for stakeholders. The demand for socially responsible corporations continues to grow, encouraging investors, consumers and employees to use their individual power to negatively affect companies that do not share their values.

BREAKING DOWN 'Corporate Citizenship'

All businesses have basic ethical and legal responsibilities; however, successful businesses establish a strong belief in corporate citizenship, showing a commitment to ethical behavior by creating a balance between the needs of shareholders and the needs of the community and environment in the surrounding area.

Development of Corporate Citizenship

There are stages that companies go through during the process of developing corporate citizenship. Companies rise to the higher stages of corporate citizenship based on their capacity and credibility when supporting community activities, a strong understanding of community needs, and their dedication to incorporate citizenship within the culture and structure of their company.

The five stages of corporate citizenship are elementary, engaged, innovative, integrated and transforming.


In the elementary stage, known also as the compliant stage, a company’s citizenship activities are basic and undefined because there is scant corporate awareness and little to no senior management involvement. Small businesses in particular tend to linger in this stage; they are able to comply with the standard health, safety and environmental laws, but they do not have the time nor the resources to fully develop a greater involvement in community activities.


In this stage, companies will often develop policies that promote the involvement of employees and managers in activities that exceed rudimentary compliance to basic laws. Senior management is more active in developing policies for the entire corporation and assigning to all levels of management more sophisticated standards for corporate citizenship.


Citizenship policies become more comprehensive in this stage. This occurs through increased meetings and consultations with shareholders and through participation in forums and other outlets that promote innovative corporate citizenship policies. Typically, this is the stage where corporate citizenship policies are funded and activated and become functional with assistance and support from upper-level management. Transparency comes into play in this stage as companies typically monitor how successfully they have become involved in the community, with results of this monitoring being made available through public reports.


Citizenship activities are formalized and blend in fluidly with the company’s regular operations. Performance in community activities is monitored. Citizenship activities are driven into the lines of a business. Consultations with shareholders continues, and some companies may even set up formal training in the area of community involvement for employees and management.


Companies that have reached this stage understand that corporate citizenship plays a strategic part in fueling sales growth and expansion to new markets. Economic and social involvement, support and integration is a regular part of a company’s daily operations in this stage.

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