Global consumers are clear in their demands for companies to act responsibly, according to findings from the 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study . Nine-in-10 consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit, but also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues. Global consumers also understand their own impact on such efforts and embrace personal responsibility in their lives and purchasing behaviors. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers believe their purchases make a moderate-to-significant positive impact on social or environmental issues and 84 percent say they seek out responsible products whenever possible.
The study, a follow-up to the 2011 and 2013 global surveys on consumer attitudes, perceptions and behaviors around corporate social responsibility (CSR), was conducted by Ebiquity and Cone Communications. The research reflects the sentiments of nearly 10,000 citizens across the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, India and Japan.
Consumer Responsibility and Engagement
While expectations for companies are high, global consumers are showing a willingness to take personal responsibility to address social and environmental issues as well. Eight-in-10 are willing to consume or purchase fewer products to preserve natural resources (81%) or buy a product from an unknown brand if it has strong CSR commitments (80%).
Consumers will also engage with companies’ CSR efforts, if given the opportunity:
- 80% would tell friends and family about a company’s CSR efforts
- 76% would donate to a charity supported by a company they trust
- 72% would volunteer for a cause supported by a company they trust.
CSR Impact on Company Reputation
CSR continues to contribute significantly to brand reputation and affinity. Similar to the 2013 study findings, when companies support social or environmental issues consumers will have a more positive image of the company (93%), will be more likely to trust the company (90%) and will be more loyal (88%). Global consumers report that a company’s commitment to social and environmental issues are an important consideration in deciding what to buy or where to shop (84%), which products and services to recommend to others (82%), which companies they want to see doing business in their communities (84%) and where to work (79%).
Companies can see CSR’s impact on the bottom line, too. In an increasingly competitive landscape, CSR can provide brands with a much-needed edge. The study finds that 90 percent of global consumers would switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause, given similar price or quality. However, nine-in-ten are equally as likely to purchase a product or services (89%) as they are to boycott (90%) based on companies’ CSR practices.
Expectations may be high, but consumers are skeptical with half (52%) making the assumption that a company is not acting responsibly until they hear information otherwise. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers say they only pay attention to company CSR efforts if an organization is going above and beyond what other companies are doing.
Companies must ensure that their social and environmental efforts and results are communicated to consumers. Nine-in-10 consumers expect companies to report on the progress of CSR efforts (88%) and show how these efforts are personally relevant to them (89%). Consumers say both stories of impact and numbers or data related to impact are equally important (59%) in these communications. Global consumers have a better grasp of CSR concepts than in years past – confusion of company CSR messages has dropped from 71% in 2011 to 65% in 2014. However, communications must be clear as 64% of consumers will ignore a company’s CSR messages altogether if they use terms consumers do not understand.
The research reveals that global consumers have high demands for companies to address social and environmental issues, but also understand they have an obligation to make a change as well. It is critical for companies to understand the nuanced drivers, barriers and opportunities that resonate among global consumers. Associated corporate messaging should reflect this understanding and present the information in a way that resonates with their audiences.
About the Research
The 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study presents the findings of an online survey conducted February 18 – March 6, 2015 by Ebiquity. The survey was conducted in nine countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, India and Japan. Across all countries, the survey was conducted among a demographically representative random sample of the online adult population ages 18 and older. A total of 9,709 adults completed the survey, including 4,843 men and 4,866 women. The margin of error associated with the total sample is ±1% at a 95% level of confidence. The margin of error for individual country samples of n=1,000 is ±3% at the same level of confidence