Fast Company Readers — Not Anti-Social

Our current issue of Fast Company magazine, #111 for December/January, is our 2007 Social Capitalists Awards issue. When the story went live on November 20 we published a poll on our homepage asking, "Is your company socially responsible?" The results at first glance were very positive. In the first 30 days of the question appearing online, 212 readers responded, with 65% responding "Yes" and the other 35% responding "No." Nearly two-thirds of the respondents felt that they work at a socially responsible company.

But, this was not the first time this poll had appeared on the homepage. On January 13 I asked the same question, for the 2006 Social Capitalists Awards featured in January's issue. At first glance the earlier poll showed and upward trend—the first 30 days of that poll resulted with 346 votes, with 48.5% responding "Yes" and 51.5% responding "No." Comparing the positive votes, that is a tangible jump from 48.5% to 65%. This would be remarkable if it stood up to greater scrutiny.

When comparing the first 200 votes of each poll, removing an anomalous day which had a spike of 58 "No" votes, there were remarkably similar results: the January poll showed 65% positive and the November poll showed 66% positive. The truth then is that companies aren't changing. Those who were not socially responsible 10 months ago have not changed.

And what do these statistics tell us about readers? That their positions are immovable? Or that they are as socially-conscious as they will ever be? Or maybe even, one of the voters, on January 27, asked all of their friends to swing by and press "No" 58 times? Regardless of the interpretation, it reveals that the idea behind social capitalisism isn't being spread wide enough and that we could all learn more by reading more about it.

More revealing than the poll numbers may be the comments for each of them. The seven comments on the January poll were all positive. For example, Renee Moorefield, CEO, of Wisdom Works Group said, "The feeling that we are making a difference in the world through the power of our business and our brand is what drives us!" The three comments that have been posted on the November poll are all negative: "Unfortunately, when too much money is involved, social responsibility must be the breaking point," commented Shane Brenner of Precision Auto Care.

What does the disparity of the comments say? That the positive feeling of an upward trend that was evident in January (even though there is no such growth in our poll statistics) has been replaced with negativity? Or that those who are pro-social entrepreneurship are becoming concerned about its future? How do you see social capitalism faring in 2007?

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