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Consumers worldwide are demanding a higher level of social responsibility from the companies they engage with, and most are using the power of the purse to press those demands, according to a study by Cone Communications.

Among surveyed consumers worldwide, 81% say brands have a responsibility to address key social and environmental issues beyond their local communities: 

  • 31% say companies should change the way they operate to align with greater social and environmental needs.
  • 30% say companies should support larger issues with donations and time, and use their corporate muscle to advocate for change. 
  • 20% say companies should support larger issues with donations and time. 

Only 19% of consumers say companies should have a limited (13%) or no role (6%) in the communities they serve.

Below, additional findings from the 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study, a 10-country survey by Cone Communications and Echo Research

Most Popular Causes

Across the ten countries studied, most consumers want companies to address economic development issues (34%), followed by issues related to the environment (21%), human rights (12%), poverty and hunger (11%), education (9%), health and disease (8%), and water (6%).

In the US, consumer interests skew towards the economy: 43% of Americans cite economic development issues as their top concern, followed by the environment (16%), poverty and hunger (13%), education (9%), human rights (8%), health and disease (7%), and water (4%).

Consumers Will Reward Companies

More than nine-in ten consumers say they are very likely (53%) or somewhat likely (41%) to switch brands to one that supports a cause if both brands are similar in price and quality.

Moreover, if given the opportunity, consumers say they would take the following actions: 

  • Buy a product that has an environmental benefit: 94%
  • Buy a product associated with a cause: 93%
  • Boycott a company with irresponsible or deceptive business practices: 93%

Notably, consumers report they have already taken such actions in the previous 12 months: 

  • Purchased an environmental product: 76%
  • Purchased a cause-related product: 65%
  • Boycotted a company upon learning it behaved irresponsibly: 56%
  • Told friends or family about a company's social responsibility efforts: 51%

Looking for great digital marketing data? MarketingProfs reviewed hundreds of research sources to create our most recent Digital Marketing Factbook (May 2010), a 296-page compilation of data and 254 charts, covering email marketing, social media, search engine marketing, e-commerce, and mobile marketing. Also check out The State of Social Media Marketing, a 240-page original research report from MarketingProfs.

Communications Preferences

Most (89%) consumers expect companies to reach them via both traditional and new media channels.

Asked how they want to be reached with corporate responsibility messages, product and packaging ranks first (22%), followed by traditional media (21%), and advertising (16%).

However, online and new media are affective, too: 11% of consumers prefer to hear about such issues via corporate websites, 7% via social media, and 3% via mobile communications.

Corporate efforts are also motivating consumers: 59% credit companies with helping to educate them on important issues, and a similar number (56%) say they have been inspired by a company to support a new issue.

About the research: The 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study presents the findings of an online survey conducted June 1-12, 2011 by Echo Research. The survey was conducted in 10 countries: the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, Germany, France, Russia, China, India, and Japan. Across all countries, the survey was conducted among a random sample of the online adults age 18+. Some 10,024 adults completed the survey, including 5,015 men and 5,009 women.

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