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:
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:
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:
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:
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.