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Posted April 11, 2014

Study finds hints of social responsibility in top companies' mission statements

School of Media and Communication
Donnalyn Pompper, SMC ’95, ’01, associate professor of strategic communication in the School of Media and Communication, found that the most profitable companies at the top of the Fortune 500 list are balancing financial success with social responsibility better than those at the list's bottom.

Wal-Mart wants to “save people money.” Chevron aspires to “be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnerships and performance.” Microsoft’s mission statement says the company’s goal is to “help people and businesses realize their full potential.”

In her most recent study, Associate Professor of Strategic Communication Donnalyn Pompper, SMC ’95, ’01, found that the most profitable companies at the top of the Fortune 500 list are balancing financial success with social responsibility better than those at the lists bottom.

“It is fairly well-acknowledged that many corporations hesitate to ‘do the right thing’ when it comes to stakeholders [employees, customers, etc.] and the environment if doing so will detract from the bottom line,” Pompper said. “Our findings suggest that the higher-performing Fortune 500 companies may have found a way to accomplish both aims—to be socially responsible and to turn a profit.”

Pompper—who co-authored the study with Taejin Jung, associate professor of communication studies at SUNY-Oswego—compared the mission statements of the top Fortune 500 companies such as Wal-Mart and AT&T with the bottom-tier companies, such as H&R Block and Electronic Arts.

“The top 20 higher-performing corporations’ mission statements more frequently mentioned nonfinancial objectives and concern for satisfying shareholders than the bottom 20 lower-performing corporations,” the professors wrote in “Assessing Instrumentality of Mission Statements and Social-Financial Performance Links: Corporate Social Responsibility as Context,” published this year in the International Journal of Strategic Communication.

Pompper said the research can be used a catalyst to dive deeper into the relationship between financial success and social responsibility, to determine if one causes the other: Do responsible companies earn more money, or does having more money give companies the ability to be more socially responsible?

“With these findings, we discovered that there may be a relationship between being profitable and mission statements,” Pompper said. “Being socially responsible may be a key—one that deserves deeper scrutiny.”

-Jeff Cronin

Posted In: Research