Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Public Relations


William G. Jason


Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Fortune 500

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences



What Does Corporate Social Responsibility Mean to Fortune 500 Companies and Why?

A 2015 CSR audit of the top 25 Fortune 500 Companies.

Delisa Morris

Corporate social responsibility has become an essential function in modern business. The purpose of this study was to show the societal benefits and the vast possibility of CSR programs. The top 25 Fortune 500 companies were chosen for this study because they were leaders within each industry with business functions worldwide. Lastly, the purpose of this research is to find out how companies translate CSR into business benefits.

This study used a qualitative content analysis to determine the trends of the top 25 Fortune 500 corporations. The content that was analyzed were the CSR webpages of each company’s website and formal CSR reports where they were available. 15 codes were identified from the content. Coding revealed the grants/foundations had the most participation by the corporations followed by environmental sustainability. Corporate giving through grants and corporate foundations is one of the original forms of CSR, which explains why that was the code with the most participation. The code with the least participation was the conflict minerals code. Proceeds from the sale of conflict minerals perpetuate unrest in war torn countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This code probably had the least participation because most of the businesses reviewed did not need to purchase minerals for business operations. Another reason that this code had the least participation was the likelihood that taking a firm stance against conflict minerals could interrupt business relationships with foreign countries.

The following research questions were addressed:

• RQ1: Are CSR initiatives consistent within each industry?

• RQ2: If applicable, how do companies measure the impact of their CSR efforts?

• RQ3: Where are most CSR efforts concentrated, and in what areas are CSR efforts lacking?

• RQ4: How did the company choose its CSR efforts and why?

The content analysis revealed that the only industries that had consistent CSR initiatives were food and drug stores and general merchandisers. There was no clear or consistent way that corporations measured the impact of their CSR efforts. Most corporations that produced formal CSR reports measured the impact of CSR by comparing the year being reported to the previous year or measuring the year being reported against future goals. Most CSR efforts were concentrated in the areas of grants/foundation, environmental sustainability and education. Lastly, there was no concrete information about why companies chose their CSR efforts, but most companies chose CSR efforts that aligned with their corporate missions and values.


Open Access