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Shoppers More Sophisticated on CSR

2 June 2015 at 4:26 pm
Xavier Smerdon
Global Consumers are willing to make personal sacrifices to address social and environmental issues, according to new international research.

Xavier Smerdon | 2 June 2015 at 4:26 pm


Shoppers More Sophisticated on CSR
2 June 2015 at 4:26 pm

Global Consumers are willing to make personal sacrifices to address social and environmental issues, according to new international research.

And as many as 80 per cent of global consumers would be willing to consume or purchase fewer products or buy from an unknown brand with stronger CSR values.

The 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study found that global consumers feel a personal accountability to address social and environmental issues and look to companies as partners in progress.

And most consumers want companies to act responsibly and expect companies to do more than make a profit, but also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues.

The report found that 84 percent of consumers globally say they seek out responsible products whenever possible, though 81 per cent cite availability of these products as the largest barrier to not purchasing more.

The study, a follow-up to the 2011 and 2013 global studies on consumer attitudes, perceptions and behaviors around Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), was conducted by Cone Communications and market analysits, Ebiquity.

The research surveyed almost 10,000 citizens in nine of the largest countries by GDP, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, India and Japan.

“The research has revealed an increasingly sophisticated consumer,” Research Director at Ebiquity, Jennifer Ciuffo Clark said.

“Global consumers have high demands for companies to address social and environmental issues, but they now also understand they have an obligation to make change, as well. It’s critical for companies to understand the nuanced drivers, barriers and opportunities that resonate among discerning global audiences.

“As CSR becomes firmly grounded in many global citizens’ daily routines and considerations, consumers have a better understanding and are more optimistic overall about their own ability to make a positive impact.”

The report found that nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) believe their purchases make a moderate-to-significant positive impact on social or environmental issues.

“This positive outlook may stem from a growing command of CSR terms and language; consumer confusion of company CSR messages has dropped from 71 per cent in 2011 to 65 per cent in 2015.”

The report found that global consumers state they are willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.

Four out of five are willing to consume or purchase fewer products to preserve natural resources (81 per cent) or buy a product from an unknown brand if it has strong CSR commitments (80 per cent).

Consumers are even willing to forgo elements like ownership or quality to push progress forward:

  • 62 per cent of consumers would work for a socially or environmentally responsible company, even if the salary was less than other companies

  • 61 per cent would be willing to borrow or share products rather than buy new ones

  • 57 per cent would purchase a product of lesser quality or efficacy if it was more socially or environmentally responsible

“Companies shouldn’t take consumers’ willingness to make sacrifices as a signal to cut corners,” Executive Vice President of Cone Communications, Alison DaSilva said 

“Rather, this is an opportunity to engage consumers more fully in new CSR solutions, collaborating to push the boundaries of responsible consumption and lifestyle.”

The report found that the leading ways consumers want to get engaged with companies’ CSR efforts are actions tied directly to their wallets, with 89 per cent just as likely to purchase as to boycott (90 per cent) based on companies’ responsible practices.

However, consumers view their role in creating social and environmental change as extending well beyond the cash register. If given the opportunity:

  • 80 per cent would tell friends and family about a company’s CSR efforts

  • 76 per cent would donate to a charity supported by a company they trust

  • 72 per cent would volunteer for a cause supported by a company they trust

  • 72 per cent would voice their opinions directly to a company about CSR efforts

Despite their good intentions, the report found that the leading ways consumers actually engage with companies remain transactional, as shopping (63 per cent), donating (61 per cent) and boycotting a product (53 per cent) are the top reported behaviors taken over the last 12 months.

“Companies are still relying on traditional forms of consumer engagement primarily tied to the product shelf, yet consumers are looking for more diverse ways to get involved with CSR efforts,” DaSilva said.

“Companies can serve as a catalyst for sparking donations, volunteerism and advocacy by giving consumers a spectrum of ways to get involved.

“CSR is also a powerful differentiator at the register, as 90 percent of global consumers would switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause, given similar price or quality. This inclination to shop with an eye toward greater good has remained strong since 2011.

“Even as consumers expect companies to communicate results, companies should not rely solely on CSR reports to convey information, as only a quarter of global citizens have read a CSR report in the past 12 months.

“Companies should look to leverage and communicate data in new ways to stay relevant.

“The consumer mindset of ‘guilty until proven responsible’ puts new pressure on companies to ensure their CSR messages are breaking through.

“As the communications landscape continues to become more diverse, companies must take an integrated approach to conveying CSR efforts. They need to strike a balance of hyper-targeting CSR content to consumers in ways that are personally relevant, while creating cohesive, always-on communications to break apart from the pack.”


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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