06/08/2012 01:25 pm ET Updated Aug 08, 2012

The Civic 100

After 9/11, more than 1,000 CEOs stepped forward to ramp up their company's efforts to help community and country. In the face of tragedy, they responded with hope. Instead of one-off events to boost their brands, they wanted changes in civic policies and practices that could be sustained over time.

One company gave 82,000 employees six days of paid leave a year to mentor and tutor disadvantaged youth in public schools, another guaranteed every former employee who served in the military a job when they returned home, and others had their corporate philanthropic dollars seed the very non-profits in which their employees were volunteering.

More Habitat homes got built, more caring adults mentored and tutored children in need, more veterans returned to productive employment, and more communities saw the benefits of private-public partnerships.

One CEO said, "we aren't interested in a public relations campaign, but forever changing how our company institutionalizes a culture of civic engagement." He could not have summarized the purpose of The Civic 100 better.

Launched by the National Conference of Citizenship, Points of Light Institute and Bloomberg News, The Civic 100 will rank America's corporations from the S&P 500 who participate in an annual survey and share their civic data, practices and stories. Independent evaluators will examine the degree to which companies are engaging their employees in volunteering, how those efforts align with core business interests and strategies so they can be sustained over time, what policies and practices are adopted to support civic engagement, the degree to which such efforts are found across the company, and the results that are being achieved to address public challenges.

Case studies of innovative initiatives will be analyzed and shared. Companies that compete in the commercial marketplace will now compete in the civic purpose-space and offer investors, consumers and employees information they crave in a socially-conscious world. The purpose is to celebrate civic innovation and encourage more of it by sharing creative ideas.

Corporations are moving from "corporate social responsibility" to a deeper, more connected form of giving back that furthers the proposition that businesses should do well by doing good. Many recognize that such efforts are critical to attracting and retaining good employees, who increasingly want to know how their companies are helping communities. Even new corporate legal structures -- such as "Benefit Corporations" that insulate companies from liability if they include social impact considerations in their decision-making -- are emerging that reflect this new day in corporate civic commitment.

The Civic 100 itself is an innovative effort that will ensure civic efforts get the support they deserve from the very institutions that drive and sustain our economy. Doing well ought to be aligned with creating more public good for our communities and nation.

John M. Bridgeland is National Advisory Chair of the National Conference on Citizenship and CEO of Civic Enterprises. He was formerly Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.