Skip to main content

New Report: Pressure for Corporate Engagement in Social Issues is Growing

By October 26, 2021September 10th, 2023Uncategorized

New Report: Pressure for Corporate Engagement in Social Issues is Growing

October 26, 2021

Laura Horsley
Senior Director of Marketing and Communications
Public Affairs Council
[email protected] | 202.787.5963

New study and survey explore why companies are getting involved in social issues
and how they determine their priorities and engagement strategies

Washington – Major corporations are feeling increased pressure from stakeholders — especially employees — to take a stand on social issues, according to a new report from the Foundation for Public Affairs. Released today, Lobbying for Good explores why companies decide to embrace social issues and how they set priorities, determine key strategies and spokespeople, and measure results.

The comprehensive study provides new survey data as well as practical insights and examples for professionals, including detailed case studies of major organizations driving change.

In tandem with Lobbying for Good, the Public Affairs Council is releasing Taking a Stand: How Corporations Engage on Social Issues, which provides results of a new Council survey on how and why companies get involved in issues related to discrimination, sustainability, human rights, immigration reform and other causes. The survey compares data to a similar poll conducted in 2016.

“Public expectations have risen substantially for large corporations when it comes to addressing important social issues, but each company needs to determine its own path to engagement,” said Public Affairs Council President Doug Pinkham. “Our survey and report provide useful data and important guidance as leaders step into the spotlight and take a stand on vital, but sometimes controversial causes.”

Key findings include:

Pressure to engage is increasing.

  • Nine out of 10 (91%) major companies believe pressure to engage in social issues has increased in the past three years, a considerable jump since 2016 when 60% felt increased pressure.
  • An even higher percentage of firms (96%) believe these expectations will rise further in the next three years.
  • Companies are taking a stand on civil rights issues (race, gender and sexual orientation equality) much more frequently than any other category of issues. Over 80% are currently engaged in these causes and more than 70% are publicly supportive of gender identity equality.
  •  In the 2021 survey, civil rights issues surpassed environmental sustainability as the issues drawing the most corporate engagement compared to the 2016 survey.

Political action is the most common way companies engage in social issues.

  • Forty-three percent (43%) of respondents used internal or contract lobbyists to advocate at the state or local level on an issue, and 41% engaged in lobbying at the federal level.
  • Similar to 2016, the most common strategy employed by corporations to support a cause in 2021 is joining a coalition. The second most common strategy is issuing a public statement.
  • Forty percent (40%) of respondents updated their PAC contribution criteria to reflect a candidate’s position on an issue.

Stakeholders, rather than reputation or business needs, are driving issue engagement.

  • Stakeholder demands for involvement were the most common reason for involvement in social issues, with 95% of respondents indicating that their company got engaged in response to stakeholder requests.
  • The two most influential groups of stakeholders are rank-and-file employees (82%) and senior management (79%).
  • Politicians, activists and the news media were not the primary drivers of corporate involvement in these causes.

Visit our website to view the full reports here.

The Council distributed the survey to more than 1,000 private and publicly traded companies across a wide variety of industries in July 2021. The survey was shared via email to unique corporate contacts and all data were reviewed to ensure the data set included distinct corporate responses. A total of 82 companies provided usable responses.

About the Foundation for Public Affairs
The Foundation for Public Affairs invests in the future of the profession through workforce development initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion, and by conducting research on emerging issues and trends. It is affiliated with the Public Affairs Council. Learn more at

About the Public Affairs Council
Both nonpartisan and nonpolitical, the Public Affairs Council is the leading association for public affairs professionals worldwide. The Council’s mission is to advance the field of public affairs and to provide its 700 member companies, associations and other nonprofits with the executive education and expertise they need to succeed while maintaining the highest ethical standards.

Featured Event

Covering emerging issues affecting local, state and federal government relations professionals, expand your network while getting answers to your toughest policy questions.

Washington, D.C. | Sept. 25-27