Companies assume responsibility for society by responding to and shaping both emerging and longstanding developments and megatrends. The private sector response to recent developments involving the migration of massive numbers of refugees toward Germany underscores this role. A survey conducted from December 2015 to January 2015 of 600 German companies with 250 or more employees conducted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung in cooperation with the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln) reveals that 74 percent of these companies have committed to assisting refugees with direct aid, primarily in the form of material donations. Furthermore, 60 percent of the companies surveyed are offering their help through two or more measures. About 50 percent of companies surveyed engage in measures targeting the integration of refugees into the job market. In doing so, many companies (62 percent) offer internships allocated for refugee applicants. The quick mobilization of resources demonstrates the effectiveness with which companies can act in assuming responsibility for societal challenges. However, long-term ongoing trends such as demographic change, digitization, globalization and social inequality require the sustainable cooperation of actors across all sectors of society, that is, the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Indeed, we already see this cooperation in effect with regard to durable measures targeting issues such as integration, diversity, education, health, regional development, and the compatibility of family and work.

When committing to social objectives such as improving education and health, and the compatibility of family and work, many companies design activities that can be integrated into their core business. These activities are often designed to facilitate the flexible organization of working hours, develop people’s skills or improve workenvironments and thereby make them less physically demanding to employees.

When it comes to integration, diversity and regional development, company activities must be transparent and draw on cooperation. Sharing experiences with integrating different groups into a company and working closely together with external partners are promising means of improving the impact of engagement and enhancing the engagement of other stakeholders. About 20 percent of Germany’s larger companies consider other companies and interest associations to be their most important strategic partners with regard to social engagement.

The study shows that companies are overall committed to addressing both emerging and longstanding challenges to society. In fact, most of the companies surveyed have allocated personnel to manage social responsibility activities. However, the study also shows that the organization and coordination of these activities and measures require optimization. Just 10 percent of the companies surveyed feature a clear assignment of tasks to specific staff with the requisite responsibility. In addition, few companies actively seek feedback on their measures. About 50 percent of the companies surveyed evaluate their activities systematically in order to gather information regarding impact and efficiency. Improving how social responsibility within companies is governed could enhance corporate social responsibility’s public visibility and its reputation.