What do consumers really think about Corporate Social Responsibility?

by Phoebe Harpham

There are as many skeptics as proponents of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). But do we really know what consumers think? A recent study conducted by public relations company, Cone Communications, and Echo Research has shed some fresh light onto what consumers really think about CSR.

The 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study has pulled together consumer perceptions of CSR from over 10,000 adults across ten countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, India and Japan. Presented below are some key findings.

CSRThe survey provides an interesting insight into what consumers expect and want from the business world. Surprisingly – and encouragingly – only a small minority of consumers (6%) believe that the primary purpose of business should be making money for shareholders. This is a clear shift from the traditional view of business being purely about profit making. Instead, almost one third of consumers (31%) indicate that businesses need to change the way they operate to become more socially and environmentally responsible.

If they don’t? Well, the overwhelming majority of consumers (91%) report they would switch brands to one associated with a good cause –  price and quality being equal. In fact, the survey reveals that consumers decisions are influenced by CSR in a myriad of ways. Over three quarters of consumers (88%) report they feel a responsibility to purchase socially and environmentally sustainable products; 81% report that they consider CSR when deciding where to work; and 93% are more loyal to companies that support social or environmental causes.

CSR clearly has a huge influence on consumer choice and behaviour, however, it appears that organisations are not capitalising on this. The survey revealed that nearly three quarters of consumers (70%) are confused by CSR messages and 91% wanted to hear more about companies CSR efforts. There is a clear need for businesses to communicate CSR efforts more frequently and effectively, but how should they go about doing this? Consumers report that CSR messaging printed on the product is their preferred method of receiving this information, followed by website and social media (20%), PR (18%) and advertising (15%).  Receiving CSR messaging through traditional mail or via mobile phone is the least preferred methods at 6% and 4% respectively.

In short, the results of the survey indicate that CSR has a significant influence on consumer choice and behaviour. The potential for businesses is enormous if they can find a way to harness the power of CSR. The take home message for businesses is clear –  CSR does matter. No longer is it an option, it is emphatically and indisputably a ‘must-do’ for businesses seeking to succeed in the 21st century.

Contact One Health Organisation to find out how we can assist your business build an effective CSR strategy.

2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study. www.conecomm.com/global-CSR-study