Today our Global Citizenship team released our eighth annual Citizenship Report, Act With CertaintyAligning with our firm’s brand positioning, our report chronicles Edelman’s corporate social responsibility journey, and how this journey reflects our efforts to act with certainty in all that we do.

At a conference not long after assuming leadership of our global citizenship efforts, I asked how long it should take to embed a strong program of social and environmental purpose. The response: five to seven years. Self-confident, I responded, “We can do it in one to two years.” Besides, for decades we have valued conducting ourselves in an ethical, sustainable, inclusive and transparent manner.  

However, based on our own experience, I can now state with certainty that integrating citizenship into a company culture is a step-by-step process. Attaining real, measurable achievements in what is a complex, complicated journey requires an evolutionary, not revolutionary, approach. It entails setting objectives; putting policies, structures and measurements in place; often launching pilot programs before going global, gaining buy-in from employees and senior leadership; assessing progress; and, if goals are met, setting new targets.

And we’ve learned along the way that we succeed best when we embed citizenship in everything we do, and it operates seamlessly as part of our culture. We work toward this goal by integrating citizenship initiatives into our global strategy and impacting how Edelman operates.

It’s what we need to do – for our own people, for our communities, for our world and for our clients. And it’s increasingly evidenced by the results of our Edelman Trust Barometer, indicating the expectations of CEOs to act on societal issues; by investors, through the Task Force on Climate Disclosure Recommendations; by clients, requiring us to respond to third-party environmental platforms; by legislative directives like the European Union’s Disclosure on Diversity and Nonfinancial Reporting; and by our own employees, 85 percent of whom tell us that our Citizenship program is a reason they work here.

When we take these steps to act with certainty in our own organization, we can advise our partners to do the same.

We look back on our progress with pride, and at our shortfalls with clarity. And now, with updated Citizenship goals and public commitments; revised pro bono, volunteerism and environmental policies; Carbon Trust recertification; and our first sustainable procurement Ecovadis campaign, we are able to look forward with certainty.

John Edelman is managing director, Global Engagement and Corporate Responsibility.