Survey of US public companies sheds light on corporate aid to Japan

The Conference Board released findings on May 5 from a survey on contributions by U.S. public companies to relief efforts in Japan. “The recent crisis in Japan has resulted in an outpouring of support from citizens and corporations around the world,” said Matteo Tonello, research director of corporate leadership at The Conference Board. “Numerous relief programs have been established to provide conduits for distributing the money, goods and services that the people of Japan will need to survive and recover from these natural disasters. This survey was conducted to assess the forms and extent to which the corporate cmmunity in the United States is contributing to this effort.”

The survey was disseminated to US-listed companies and conducted online from April 11 to April 20, 2011. Participating companies were asked to report contribution amounts committed as of the date in which the survey was filled out. A total of 83 U.S.-listed companies participated in the study.

The following are the key survey findings:

Corporate aid program. Across industries and size groups (measured by annual corporate revenue), a large majority of survey participants reported instituting some type of program to support relief efforts in Japan. The manufacturing industry reports the highest percentage of such programs: 95.2 percent, compared with 87.5 percent in financial services and 79.2 percent in other (non-financial) services.

Total contributions. Manufacturing companies are the most generous contributors to Japan relief programs, with an average donation per company of $807,555 and a 75th percentile as high as $1,200,000. When analyzed by company size, the average aggregate value of per-company contributions to Japan relief programs varies from $136,719 for smaller companies to $2,134,130 for those with annual revenue of $20 billion and more.

Contribution type. The largest majority of reported corporate contributions to Japan relief efforts are in cash. In the manufacturing industry, in particular, this is the case for 89.6 percent of total contributions to Japan, whereas non-financial services companies report that 19.6 percent of their contributions to the same relief programs are in the form of company products or services (compared with 7.8 percent in manufacturing and 2.5 in financial services). Across industries and size groups, no company reported in-kind contribution in the form of lending its employee expertise to the relief efforts.

Relationship with Japanese market. Manufacturing companies reported the strongest relationship with the Japanese market, because of: their existing business operations in Japan (69.8 percent of survey participants); their dependence on imports from Japan (30.2 percent); or the fact that Japan is a key customer base (41.9 percent). The type of relationship varies significantly according to size groups, with the largest companies reporting the closest ties with the Japanese market, primarily due to their business operations (72 percent) and their customer base (40 percent).

Contribution recipients. The survey inquired on the means through which companies are funneling their contributions to Japan–whether through Japanese or international relief agencies, directly through company employees based in Japan, or other forms. Across size groups and industries, a large majority of companies use their contributions to support international relief agencies (65.2 percent of the smallest surveyed companies and as many as 84 percent of the largest). The largest companies are those more inclined to rely on the relief initiatives of their employees based in Japan (36 percent, compared with 8.7 percent of the smallest surveyed companies). The manufacturing industry is the one that, presumably due to its closest ties with the country, adopts the most diversified approach and uses a combination of Japanese and international agencies, employee-driven initiatives, and other forms of assistance.

Contribution timeframe. Participating companies were also asked to indicate whether they plan to award (or have already awarded) the contributions as a lump sum or wait for more information regarding the evolution of the situation in Japan to better identify the real areas of need. The survey showed that, across industries and size groups, companies have been more inclined to act swiftly. The largest percentage of companies that have committed resources but intend to wait for higher awareness of the actual needs before deciding on the allocation is in (non-financial) services (26.3 percent) and in the largest size group (33.3 percent).

Employee-matching programs. As part of their contributions to Japan, most companies have also instituted a program to match donations made by employees to relief initiatives of their choice. The percentage of companies that offer a matching program ranges from 66.7 in non-financial services to 71.4 in financial services and from 64.7 for the smallest companies to 73.3 for those with annual revenue between $5 billion and $20 billion.

Collaboration with other companies. Perhaps due to the nature of the emergency and the need for a prompt response, most companies are not engaging with their peers in a joint relief effort: only 7.7 percent of the manufacturing companies and 3.3 percent of those with annual revenue between $5 and $20 billion indicated that they are partnering or collaborating with other business corporations to increase the value or effects of their contributions.

Impact on corporate giving program. The majority of companies reported establishing a separate emergency fund, with no impact on the regular contribution program: this is the case for 84.6 percent of financial services firms and 84 percent of the largest surveyed companies. Of those companies that indicated that the Japan relief contributions required a re-allocation of previously budgeted contribution resources, an ample majority across the smallest revenue groups and the group comprising companies with annual revenue between $5 and $20 billion reported an only minimal impact on that budget.

Source: The Conference Board; www.conference-board.org.