Consumers care about social responsibility on the part of businesses—and it’s getting harder than ever for companies to fake it or hide socially irresponsible behavior, thanks to social media. The new Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study found that while 91 percent of customers say they’d switch brands to support a company with a cause, an equally impressive 90 percent would boycott a business that displayed socially irresponsible behavior.
The study polled 10,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Brazil, Germany, France, Russia, China, India and Japan. A whopping 87 percent say companies’ social responsibility efforts affect what they buy and where they shop; 85 percent say social responsibility is also a factor in what products or companies they recommend to others. In addition, 62 percent report having bought a product with a social or environmental benefit in the past year.
What social issues do global consumers care about most? The fastest-growing issue is economic development, cited as the most important social cause by 38 percent of respondents. Next was protecting the environment (19 percent), human rights (11 percent), poverty (11 percent) and hunger (11 percent).
Although consumers are paying a lot of attention to social responsibility, they’re kind of skeptical about companies’ efforts. Just 22 percent say they agree that businesses have had a “significant” impact on social or environmental concerns. However, 27 percent think their personal buying habits can impact social causes, and just 13 percent feel their purchasing habits don’t affect businesses’ behavior.
These consumers aren’t just using social media to share cat videos and baby pictures. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) use it to stay abreast of corporate social responsibility issues, and 29 percent use it to learn more about companies’ causes. Once they find out something about a business’s social responsibility efforts, 26 percent will use social media to share negative information they uncover, while 34 percent use it to share positive information about companies’ social responsibility efforts.
“Social media is changing the face of [corporate social responsibility], as citizens worldwide have unprecedented access to information about corporate behavior,” says the report. “They are poised to not only engage with companies around vital issues but also serve as CSR megaphones, equally propagating the good and bad.”
The lesson for your business? Don’t hide your light under a bushel: Make your social responsibility efforts known on social media. Also make it easy for customers to share, retweet and comment on what you’re doing to be more socially responsible. Last, but not least, always respond to their comments, suggestions or ideas regarding social responsibility. Consumers want to have an effect on your business and, by extension, an effect on the social causes they care about.
Image by Flickr user Angelo Gonzalez (Creative Commons)