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Bentley-Gallup Report

Business can be a powerful force for positive change in our society. But are businesses doing enough to live up to that potential and make the world a better place? We asked 5,757 people across America what they thought about the impact of business. In which areas are businesses most effective at improving people's lives? And where are businesses falling short?

Here are highlights from the findings.

55% of Americans believe business has a positive impact on society

Which of the following best describes the impact businesses have on people's lives?

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“As a business and society researcher, I am excited to see that over half of Americans we surveyed believe business has a positive impact on society, regardless of age or gender. This means that businesses are taking into consideration the impact they have on stakeholders and their issues of concern – and stakeholders are being heard.” 

Cynthia Clark
Professor, Management
Bentley University

82% of Americans believe small businesses positively impact people’s lives

Which of the following best describes the impact small businesses have on people's lives?

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“Americans have always had a deeply ingrained respect and affection for the hard-working small business owner. We see them as people and families in a different way than we see large, anonymous corporations. Small businesses are often referred to as engines of growth. They create jobs and they create communities.”

Linda Edelman
Professor of Management
Bentley University

71% of young Americans think businesses hurt the environment

Which of the following best describes the impact businesses have on the planet/environment?

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“It’s no secret that Americans are paying more attention to our impact on the natural world, and that young people especially think businesses hurt the environment. For any business that hopes to attract those young customers and employees — which means all businesses — improving their environmental initiatives is the right move both economically and environmentally.”

Betsy Stoner
Assistant Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences
Bentley University

Americans think business and government have a lot of power to make a positive impact but they’re falling short of their potential

How much power / how effective are each of the following at making a positive impact on people’s lives?

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“Americans believe businesses and government have what it takes to make a better world, even as they are sometimes disappointed in whether they are living up to that potential. This is a huge opportunity: People want business and government to be agents of positive change.”

Jeff Gulati
Professor of Political Science
Bentley University

62% of Black Americans – and only 33% of white Americans – think the federal government is effective at improving people’s lives

How effective is the federal government at making a positive impact on people’s lives?

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“What we see reflected here is a consequence of both the pandemic and hyper-polarization that has been happening here in the United States and abroad. Party politics is playing a big role in trust in the federal government among some segments of the population with serious implications for our democracy.”

Maricruz Ariana Osorio
Assistant Professor of Global Studies
Bentley University

75% of Democrats – and only 18% of Republicans – say businesses should speak out on topics in the news

Do you think businesses should take a public stance on current events?

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“Democrats see corporate executives as allies in recent social conflicts, but they should be careful what they wish for. Eventually they will find themselves on opposing sides of an issue, and then encouraging corporations to get more involved in politics will seem like a bad idea.”

Jeff Moriarty
Professor of Philosophy
Bentley University

Beyond profits: 88% of Americans think companies should try and make the world better

How important is it that businesses aim for the following social and environmental goals?

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“Adults across the U.S. are looking beyond the bottom line when it comes to evaluating business success. Employers are increasingly expected to address the needs of all of their stakeholders, including workers, partners, customers and communities as well as shareholders.”

Patricia Flynn
Trustee Professor of Economics and Management
Bentley University

84% of young Americans say businesses should promote diversity, equity and inclusion

How important is it for businesses to promote diversity, equity and inclusion? Reduce their carbon footprint or emissions? Percent answering “important”

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“Unlike previous generations who believed that individual consumers had the power to effect positive social, political and economic change, millennials and Gen Z have a more sophisticated view. They believe businesses should be taking on big problems because they have the ability to improve conditions related to the environment and diversity.”

Susan Dobscha
Professor of Marketing
Bentley University

88% of Americans say companies should make the world a better place but only 24% say companies do it well

What % of Americans say each is important for businesses to do vs. % who say businesses do it excellent or well?

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“As we all become more and more interconnected, consumers now have way more information about the companies they patronize than they ever did before. Since everything a brand does or doesn’t do becomes part of its image, and consumers have more points of reference for each brand, they expect the brands they buy to represent who they are to a greater degree. And if a brand doesn’t share my values, I don’t want to share my money.”

Andy Aylesworth
Professor of Marketing
Bentley University

72% of Americans say they’d pay more for a product from a company that treats its employees well

Would you be willing to pay more for a plain T-shirt if it were made by a business that is known for _______?

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“The conscious consumption movement is growing, with a majority of Americans now willing to pay more for products and to support companies with clear intentions to do good for people and planet. More people are also seeing that consumers can collectively use their purchasing power to push businesses to favor the triple bottom line over bottom-line profit.”

Jonathan White
Associate Professor of Sociology
Bentley University

Why does this matter?

71% of young Americans say they’d switch jobs to work at an organization that has a greater impact on the world

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President Chrite
“The role of business in shaping our society is growing. People expect more from companies than simply increasing profits and meeting shareholder goals. This is especially true among Gen Z and millennials – the future of our nation’s workforce and consumer base. These changing expectations should matter a great deal to every company and employer in America. If you want to continue to grow and attract future customers and employees, you’ll need to show your commitment to your community, account for your environmental impact, and adopt and promote company values that today’s workers embrace.”

E. LaBrent Chrite
Bentley University

Force for Good research grants for faculty

Media inquiries