29th May 2015

Nine out of 10 consumers demand corporate responsibility

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Global consumers feel a personal responsibility to address social and environmental issues and see companies as partners in achieving green goals, according to a major survey on attitudes to corporate responsibility.

The 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study found near-universal demand for companies to act responsibly, with nine in 10 consumers expecting firms to do more than make a profit.

Eighty-four per cent of consumers in nine countries said they sought out responsible products whenever possible, and 81 per cent cited availability of these products as the largest barrier to not purchasing more.

The research reflected the sentiments of nearly 10,000 citizens in the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, China, India and Japan.

“The research has revealed an increasingly sophisticated consumer,” said Jennifer Ciuffo Clark, research director at Ebiquity. “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. In fact, nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) believe their purchases make a moderate-to-significant positive impact on social or environmental issues, the study found.

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.

Global consumers state that 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 or buy a product from an unknown brand if it has strong CSR commitments. Consumers are even willing to forgo elements such as ownership or quality to push progress forward.

“Companies shouldn’t take consumers’ willingness to make sacrifices as a signal to cut corners,” said Alison DaSilva, executive vice president of Cone Communications. “Rather, this is an opportunity to engage consumers more fully in new CSR solutions, collaborating to push the boundaries of responsible consumption and lifestyle.”

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