Global Consumers Want More Corporate Responsibility

According to the 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study, ten thousand consumers in major countries around the globe are demanding a higher level of responsibility by companies in dealing with societal issues.

The research is supplemented with insights from some of the world’s foremost thought leaders on corporate responsibility.

 Key global findings indicate:

  • 81% of consumers say companies have a responsibility to address key social and environmental issues beyond their local communities
  • 93% of consumers say companies must go beyond legal compliance to operate responsibly
  • 94% of consumers say companies must analyze and evolve their business practices to make their impact as positive as possible

Mike Lawrence, executive vice president and chief reputation officer of Cone Communications, said “...we expected consumer interest in corporate responsibility... but we got a groundswell... demanding companies look at the societal impact... and evolve the way they operate.”

 Not only do consumers expect businesses to put their resources to work for change, but they want to participate. 94% of consumers are likely to switch brands to one that supports a cause if both brands are similar in price and quality. And, if given the opportunity:

  • 94% would buy a product that has an environmental benefit; 76% have already purchased an environmental product in the past 12 months
  • 93% would buy a product associated with a cause; 65% have already purchased a cause-related product in the past 12 months

 Consumers are seeing the impact. 93% believe companies have made at least some positive impact on the world. A quarter say the impact has been significant. 59% of consumers credit companies with helping to educate them on important issues, and 56% say they have been inspired to support a new issue.

 Alison DaSilva, executive vice president, Cone Communications, opines that “... these high numbers suggest the interpretation of ‘cause’ is broad... consumers may believe they are supporting a cause when buying products sourced locally or from a company with a charitable giving halo...”

 36% of consumers have researched a company’s business practices or support of issues, says the report, and 32% have given their feedback about a company’s responsibility efforts directly to the company. 93% would boycott a company for irresponsibility, and more than half say they already have.

 “Welcome to a new wired world of empowered consumers,” says Lawrence.

 Consumers believe it is important for companies to address a full range of social and environmental issues, including:

  • Economic development... 96%
  • Environment... 96%
  • Water... 95%
  • Human rights... 94%
  • Education... 90%
  • Health and disease... 90%
  • Poverty and hunger... 87%

 34% of the consumers surveyed say economic development this is the most important issue for companies to address. Combined with the environment, these issues represent the attention of more than half of the 10,000 respondents. Human rights comes in a distant third at 12%.

 DaSilva says “... consumers are looking for a company to stand for something... companies who frame their efforts within the larger macro issue of economic development will be most compelling and relevant... “

36% of consumers believe companies should prioritize support of issues that affect the quality of life locally in their communities, 33% say nationally and 30% say globally. Consumers in some of the larger countries want companies to focus locally, including Russia (51%), China (49%) and the U.S. (47%).

 Consumers have a clear priority. 31% say the single most important way a company should address social and environmental issues is to change the way it operates. The results reveal some interesting country distinctions. In Japan, developing new products and services to address a social or environmental need (29% vs. 16% globally) is a clear point of differentiation, whereas in India, raising awareness for issues is key (21% vs. 11% globally).

Consumers want a dialogue, but ultimately they still find convenience in traditional one-way communications. The most effective channels to reach them with messages about corporate responsibility are:

  • The product/package... 22%
  • Media... 21%
  • Advertising...16%
  • Websites...11%
  • Social media... 7%
  • Mobile devices... 3%

89% of consumers expect companies to use both traditional and new media channels to reach them. But no matter the medium, consumers simply want the truth.

 DaSilva concludes that “... consumers around the world want companies to be a force for good... in the way they do business and... devoting their resources to address societal issues... “ 88% of the respondents say it’s ok if a company is not perfect, as long as it is honest about its efforts.

To read more from Cone, please go here, and to sign up for the complete report, go here.

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2 comments about "Global Consumers Want More Corporate Responsibility".
  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston , October 18, 2011 at 8:09 a.m.
    Of course customers want these things, especially if they think the companies will fully fund them without passing along the added cost. I wonder what the percentages would have been if the questions had been worded to reflect higher prices per unit sold, borne by the customer.
  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , November 3, 2011 at 8:05 p.m.
    If this study has validity, then what the respondents say and what they do are on different pages.