The U.S. is lagging—not leading—in the move toward greater corporate social responsibility, according to a new study published by public relations measurement specialist Echo Research.

The report shows that the recent U.S. focus on corporate governance has come at the expense of the more broadly based CSR agenda. While big U.S. business, and its leaders, are continuing to concentrate on their philanthropy programs, they are not active in CSR, the report says. And Echo says most banks, brokers, insurance companies, stock exchanges, analysts and a wealth of financial experts are not taking CSR seriously when analyzing and valuing companies.

According to Echo managing director Marianne Eisenmann, “Historically, major North American corporations and financial institutions have been viewed as role models of best corporate practice and behavior. However, our report shows that many major U.S. enterprises are now increasingly out-of-step with the international corporate and financial community, which generally has CSR much higher up its agenda. 

“Post the Iraq war and Davos World Economic Forum, the international role and impact of the US business community is more relevant and generally under greater scrutiny than ever before. This report points to some much needed head-scratching by many major corporate business leaders and their corresponding financial institution’s senior management.”

The report draws upon a mix of face-to-face interviews with financial community leaders in the U.S., U.K., Australia, France, Germany and South Africa, plus a commutative analysis of over 5,000 CSR-related media mentions.

Says Eisenmann, “This is our third in-depth, qualitative report on the perception of CSR, based now on over 250 interviews around the world. Picking up the mood of Davos this year, we have seen a distinct shift from CSR as an inspirational concept three years ago towards accepted good management practice today. As this occurs, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, we see the international financial community giving a strong CSR commitment much greater credence when evaluating the quality of management, the company’s strategy and how its shares should be rated.”