Why Corporate Citizenship is No Longer an Option for Brands


After Sandy, even Apple is giving to the Big Apple. The Cupertino, CA-based tech giant is giving generously to New York City and Northeast residents who were hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, as reported by 9to5Mac: “We just got the above email via an Apple employee from CEO Tim Cook showing the Cupertino company is looking after those on the other coast of the U.S. Apple will donate $2.5 million to the Red Cross to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims.”

The donation comes on top of an iTunes page for the Red Cross, where 100% of value is passed on to relief efforts. Apple’s recent link on their homepage that directs traffic to the Red Cross iTunes page is a major move as their site garners close to 35 million unique visitors monthly, placing it #23 in Compete’s popularity rank of websites. “It’s a prime bit of real-estate and it’s nice to see one of the five major links on the page go to relief in the wake of Sandy’s devastation of the eastern seaboard,” notes TheNextWeb.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is being praised for boosting Apple’s charitable giving, ad being seen as “determined to change the company’s stingy reputation — as one of the few major American corporations that before had barely donated to charity,” reports the New York Post. “Tech titan Apple at last donated something to charity worth talking about: $100 million… [which] still leaves Apple in an unusual spot — far behind its peers.”[more]

In addition to Sandy relief efforts, Apple under Cook has given $50 million to Stanford University hospitals, while another $50 million went to African AIDS fundraiser (RED), co-founded by U2 frontman Bono — who convinced Steve Jobs in 2006 to create a (RED)-branded, limited edition iPod, a partnership that still survives today. “Steve Jobs had a lot of concerns about how philanthropy worked and what the value of it was,” Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, told The Post. “He saw the products he was making as a contribution to society.”

Charitable giving by America’s corporations grew 4% in 2011, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and the recent inaugural Global Corporate Reputation Index, from Burson-Marsteller and partners highlights the top 25 companies with the best corporate reputation.

Based on 40,000 consumer interviews and 6,000 companies in six countries, those excelling in good corporate citizenship and market performance include not only Apple, but also Adidas, Avon, Bosch, Canon, Coca-Cola, Danone, Electrolux, Ford, Google, Heinz, Honda, Lego, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Nestle, Nike, Nokia, Philips, Puma, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Visa, and Volkswagen.

“If you’re not a good corporate citizen, you’re doing it wrong,” notes FastCoExist.com. “Consumers are no longer fooled by false corporate social responsibility — and they’re starting to care.”

The study defines corporate citizenship in part as “the less tangible aspects of a company’s reputation,” and “unsurprisingly, the banking and oil and gas industries perform the worst in the citizenship category, while the tech industry leads the pack. The auto industry is up at the top, too, revealing that the big auto companies have rebounded in the public consciousness from bankruptcy,” writes Fast Company. “Consumers don’t ask for perfection. They just want to see some effort. And they’ll reward it.”

Apple’s $100 million donation, while laudable, is less than half donated to charity by Chevron and Walmart, both with market caps less than half of Apple’s $632 billion value. “Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is No. 1 by donation size, trailed by No. 2 Walmart and Exxon Mobil at No. 3. Buffett, one of the world’s most generous donors, handed over $1.5 billion last year,” reports the Post, while, “in his lifetime, Jobs accumulated an estimated $8.3 billion fortune. There’s no public record of him donating any of this to charity.”

Even so, kudos to Cook for making charity part of the Apple portfolio, and helping redefine corporate citizenship in a world increasingly in need of a helping hand to help, as U2 put it in One, “carry each other.”