US Consumers, Employees Want Socially Conscious Companies

July 10, 2007

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Brand Metrics | PR

More than two-thirds of Americans say they consider a company’s business practices when deciding what to buy, while American workers in increasing numbers say they want their employers to support a social cause or issue, according to the 2007 Cone Cause Evolution Survey.

Its latest “Cause Branding” and corporate responsibility research indicates an evolution in consumer thinking about the ways businesses interact with society, according to Cone LLC, an Omnicom Group strategy and communications agency.

Business practices are now an additional purchasing influence for approximately one-third of American shoppers; another third consider both social issues and business practices when deciding what to buy; and an overwhelming majority of Americans (85%) say they would switch to another company’s products or services if a problem with business practices were uncovered, according to the study.

Some findings from the survey:

  • Long-term support of social issues is a major brand differentiator for consumers:
    • Americans’ expectations of companies are at an all time high: 83% say companies have a responsibility to help support causes
    • 92% acknowledge they have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause they care about.
    • 87% are likely to switch from one brand to another (price and quality being about equal) if the other brand is associated with a good cause – an increase of more than 31% (from 66%) since 1993.
  • Americans also consider a company’s commitment to social issues when deciding the following:
    • Which companies they want to see doing business in their communities, 86% (vs. 58% in 2001)
    • Where to work, 77% (vs. 48% in 2001)
    • Which stocks or mutual funds to invest in, 66% (vs. 40% in 2001)
  • However, slightly less than a third (30%) have told a family member or friend about a product or company after hearing about a company’s commitment to social issues – a decline of 30% (vs. 43%) since 2004.
  • Meaningful commitment to causes is highly important to employees:
    • American employees’ expectations of companies have increased dramatically: 72% wish their employers would do more to support a cause or social issue – up 38% (vs. 52%) since Cone’s last survey in 2004.
    • Employees familiar with their companies’ cause programs indicate the following:
      • They are proud of their companies’ values, 88%
      • They feel a strong sense of loyalty to their companies, 89%
      • It is important for their companies to provide them with opportunities to become involved in causes, 93%
  • Two-way communications is key to breaking through:
    • Advertising and the internet are the two main ways Americans prefer companies to communicate their social and environmental issues and practices: 45% and 41%, respectively.
    • Americans are also using technology to learn about and support social and environmental issues and causes:
      • More than one in five (22%) have used the internet or other technologies to engage in grassroots activism.
      • Nearly four in ten are searching for information on issues (37%) or are forwarding important messages to family and friends (38%).
  • Consumers are savvy about seeking causes most relevant to business:
    • Nine in 10 Americans say companies should support causes that are consistent with their responsible business practices.
    • 87% say they want a company to support issues based on where its business can have the most social and/or environmental impacts.
    • Health remains the leading issue Americans want companies to address: 80%.
    • Education, environment, and economic development (job creation, income generation, wealth accumulation) tie for second place with 77%.

About the survey: The 2007 Cone Cause Evolution Survey presents the findings of an online survey conducted March 29 by Opinion Research Corporation among a sample of 1,066 adults comprising 499 men and 567 women 18 years of age and older. Results concerning the causes Americans find important were gathered in a separate online survey on May 7 by Opinion Research Corporation among a sample of 1,097 adults comprising 525 men and 572 women 18 years of age and older.

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