Major companies are feeling more and more pressure to weigh in on social issues such as discrimination, sustainability, education and international human rights. What’s more, for the most part, these companies expect the pressure to be turned up even further over the next few years.

These are just some of the findings of Taking a Stand: How Corporations Speak Out on Social Issues, a new study by the Public Affairs Council on corporate engagement on social policy issues.

According to the survey, more than three-quarters of responding companies (78%) said that senior management exerts the most influence over whether a company chooses to get involved in social issues. More than half of the respondents also said that employees not in senior management and customers apply pressure to act (70% and 51%, respectively). Other stakeholders — advocacy groups (39%), shareholders (36%), and firm competitors and peers (33%) — influence at least one-third of the companies surveyed.

Click on this graphic for a full-size version.

Expectations for action are highest among firms with at least $15 billion in annual revenue. More than three-quarters of these companies said they’ve felt increased pressure to weigh in on social issues. And publicly traded corporations were more likely than private companies to experience growing pressure to engage and to be involved in efforts to support various social issues.

To read the press release about the study, visit

For full survey results, click here.