2 April 2020TrademarksSarah Morgan

Only half of law firms engage in CSR activities: INTA report

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent years, but a new report has discovered only half of law firms undertake CSR activities.

Published by the  International Trademark Association (INTA), the “ Brands and CSR Survey Report” found that 56% of law firms, service firms and trademark/patent agents reported the existence of CSR policies and activities, in a survey conducted by the association.

With 227 respondents, INTA said this was among the best response rate for its surveys, indicating that the topic is of significant importance. Of the respondents, 62% were from law firms and 18% from corporations. Service firms (6%), non-profits (5%), small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) (3%) and individuals (2%) also took part.

Overall, more than half (62%) of the respondents confirmed that their organisations either have a CSR policy and/or are engaged in activities targeting the improvement of society, the environment, labour practices, equality or other such issues.

Policies and activities were more popular with corporate, SME and non-profit respondents, with 84% of the respondents stating that their companies have CSR policies and/or are engaged in CSR activities.

The existence of CSR policies and activities was reported across all jurisdictions, with East Asia and Latin America taking the lead, with 70% and 68%, respectively. This was followed by North America (62%), Europe (59%), South Asia (54%) and Middle East/ Africa (50%).

Publicising policies

According to the survey, more than 60% of respondents reported that CSR policies are part of their companies’ mission statements, public-facing (transparent and publicly communicated) and/or used in marketing materials.

“Publicly disclosed CSR policies appear to be more common with the corporate, SME and non-profit respondents, with 90% of reporting in the affirmative,” said the report, adding that 80% of these respondents reported that the policy is part of their company’s mission statement and 90% reported that the CSR policy is public-facing.

For firms and agents, these numbers take a dive, with only 48% confirming that a CSR policy is part of its mission statement and the same percentage stating that their policy is public-facing.

However, law firms and service firms are highly engaged in pro bono services—with more than 88% of reporting that they provide these services. Just more than half of corporate, SME and non-profit respondents reported pro bono efforts.

Every Latin American respondent who answered the question answered in the affirmative. This was followed by 82% and 80% of East and South Asian respondents, 74% of Europeans, 62.5% of North Americans and 50% of Middle East/African respondents.

"As both the survey results and third party sources show, these acts—when made public—are believed to be a factor in the determination of brand value and brand loyalty," said INTA.

Branding strategies

Overall, almost half of the respondents stated that CSR impacts their companies’ overall branding strategies. At the same time, about half of the respondents reported that CSR is “somewhat important and impactful to their companies’ business decisions and customers”, added the report.

“When compared with the above results showing that well over half of respondents and 84% of corporate, SME and non-profit representatives are already actively engaged in CSR activities to some extent, the fact that there is not a higher importance ranking here suggests that several companies are not yet effectively leveraging those efforts in their branding activities,” said INTA.

According to the association, this demonstrates a significant group that could benefit from education about the branding benefits of CSR.

While respondents had a wide range of views on what CSR engagement should look like, they overwhelmingly believed that there is a social obligation for businesses to engage in CSR activities, with no region or entity type supporting the position at a rate below 75%.

A majority (84%) of survey respondents then went on to agree that CSR policies and adopting sustainability principles as an operational priority constitutes good economic practice and will benefit a company and/or brand.


Three-quarters of the respondents believe that incentives should be available to corporations and brands that adopt CSR policies and practices.

While many agreed that incentives towards having CSR activities should be in the form of tax deductions/cuts by the relevant government, others thought that CSR activities don’t need to be incentivised but should come into existence organically or be a product of market forces.

“Some respondents also noted their apprehensions about how incentivising CSR may lead to bribery and corruption, especially in developing and emerging markets,” said the report.

INTA’s “ Brands and CSR Survey Report” is a study undertaken by the association’s 2019 presidential taskforce, Brands for a Better Society.

David Lossignol, who was president of the association when the taskforce was launched,  spoke to WIPR previously about how brands can shape the world for the better, and the role the association is playing in that struggle.

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