April 1, 2010
WASHINGTONA new survey found that 77 percent of consumers say it is important for companies to be socially responsible. The second annual Corporate Social Responsibility Branding Survey analyzed consumer views of companies operating across 14 industries, ranging from apparel to telecommunications. Of the 14 tested industries, food, consumer goods and retailers are perceived as performing best, while financial services, healthcare and media are perceived as performing worst. Consumers perceive General Mills as the most responsible of 64 tested brands.
Socially responsible behavior can have significant business impact. Even during tough economic times, 38 percent of respondents still plan to spend the same or more for products and services from socially responsible companies. And 70 percent are willing to pay more for a $100 product from a company they regard as responsible.
Companies have an opportunity to influence consumer perceptions if they are able to communicate their social responsibility efforts, the survey found. Just 13 percent of consumers report having read about a companys social responsibility agenda on its website - but 75 percent of those who have done so indicated that it made them more likely to purchase products or services from that company.
Companies need to combine strong social responsibility programs with effective communication of what they are doing, noted Eric Biel, managing director for corporate responsibility at Burson-Marsteller. While many consumers may not be precise in how they define terms like corporate social responsibility, they have a clear sense of how they expect companies to behave. They expect companies to offer high-quality products at good prices and to explain how they treat their employees well, give back to their communities, and respect the environment, added Biel. Those companies that can clearly articulate how they advance these values to consumers can achieve real benefits for their brands and overall reputation.
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