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Americans Expect Business, Not Government, to Tackle Social Issues

Only 41 percent of Americans trust the federal government to solve the country’s most pressing problems, and three-quarters say it’s important for major companies to help on this front, according to the 2014 Public Affairs Pulse survey.

In particular, Americans want corporations to help improve the quality of health care (66%) and education (63%), and provide community services such as food banks, free clinics and job training for the poor (65%).

The majority of Americans also want corporations to weigh in on social issues such as wilderness protection (73%), and racial and gender discrimination (62%).

Only 31 percent think companies should take a public stand on gay marriage. In fact, 65 percent say corporations should stay out of the marriage equality debate altogether. However, several fortune-ranked companies, including Apple, Ford and IBM already are blazing trails in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) workplace inclusion. These companies were among the 10 to receive perfect ratings in the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2014 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) report. To earn a perfect score, companies must display best-in-class demonstrations of corporate commitments to LGBT workers.

The public also wants corporations to take a leadership role on the environment; 75 percent call environmental responsibility a very important priority. Unsurprisingly, more than half (57%) want companies to take action on climate change, which they already are. In July, for example, Facebook, General Motors, HP and several other leading U.S. companies signed the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, created by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), to better communicate their purchasing needs and expectations to the renewable energy marketplace.

Nearly everyone believes it’s important for companies to ensure that their employees behave ethically — 84 percent say this is very important.

Large majorities also want companies to contribute to charities, encourage employees to volunteer and otherwise help society in ways that go beyond operating a business. At least 85 percent of Americans believe these steps are somewhat or very important.

With the U.S. Congress commanding an abysmal approval rating (15% as of July 2014), it comes as no surprise that Americans are pitting their hopes for a better world on business. It is a tall order to address these several social ills, but companies worldwide are showing that they are willing to step up and try.

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