Companies are failing to engage consumers on social and environmental issues, according to a new US study.
Three-quarters of Americans give companies a “C” or below on how they’re engaging consumers around key issues of corporate social and environmental practices.
Eighty-four percent of Americans believe their ideas can help companies create products and services that are a win for consumers, business and society; yet, only half (53%) feel companies are effectively encouraging them to speak up on corporate social and environmental practices and products, according to the 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study.
A majority of consumers want to be engaged on four key responsible business pillars, including how a company conducts its business (85%), its products and packaging (83%), its support of social and environmental issues (81%) and its marketing and advertising (74%).
Consumers are prepared to dedicate time and money to help influence corporate social/environmental practices through surveys and research (70%), buying or boycotting a company’s products (44%) or through email, phone or employee communications (32%), among other activities.
Yet, when it comes to consumer interaction, most Americans say companies are not making the grade. Three-quarters assign companies a “C,” “D,” or “F” on how well they are engaging consumers around critical business issues.
Researchers say this disconnect signals a lost opportunity for companies because consumers are prepared to reward them for engagement. If a company incorporated their ideas, consumers say they would be more likely to buy its products and services (60%), more loyal (54%) and more likely to recommend the company (51%).
Jonathan Yohannan, senior vice president of Cone, a US strategy and communications agency, says there’s tremendous opportunity to more actively collaborate with consumers and other key stakeholders to achieve mutually beneficial solutions.
Americans are holding companies accountable for addressing a range of complex, global issues that may directly or indirectly touch their businesses, from ensuring product quality and safety (92%) to alleviating poverty (62%).
The range of issues is complemented by an equally extensive menu of business approaches to solve them. Consumers indicate everything from developing new products and services (89%) to making charitable donations (83%) are effective ways for a company to help solve social and environmental issues.
Not only do consumers want a voice in the issues, but they are overwhelmingly prepared to listen. Some 92 percent want companies to tell them what they’re doing to improve their products, services and operations.
The research found that 67 percent of consumers are confused by the messages companies use to talk about their social and environmental commitments.
Jonathon Yohannan says that open, consistent lines of communication are the only way a company can effectively collaborate with diverse stakeholders for the long-term and stay on top of issues that may improve or inhibit its business.
He says it doesn’t mean companies have to solve all of the issues on the table, but it does mean being transparent about their journey.
The 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study presents the findings of an online survey conducted April 8-9, 2010 by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) among 1,045 adults comprising 507 men and 538 women, 18 years of age and older.
The 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study fact sheet can be seen at www.coneinc.com/research. For information about the business approach to Shared Responsibility, go to www.coneinc.com/sharedresponsibility.