Corporate social responsibility and consumer goodwill

It is a corporate reality that consumers act on their values. Now, their values are linked with CSR. What should you know and what can you do to address this reality?

Nathaniel Gajasa

by Nathaniel Gajasa

These days, we’ve all had a lot of time to explore new hobbies and interests. Perhaps you’ve developed a newfound appreciation for brewing your own coffee or you’ve developed an interest in baking sourdough bread. You might delight in researching different equipment for brewing, grinding and serving coffee. Alternatively, you may have conducted extensive research on the source of ingredients to cook with. Regardless of the hobby, there is one question that many people prioritize for their purchases: are the products sourced sustainably?

If this is the case, then you are not alone. The numbers show that companies that implement sustainability programs in their products and services can gain measurable positive impacts from consumer goodwill.

Consumers act on their values and these values represent CSR

According to a 2019 survey, most consumers worldwide take corporate values into consideration when making purchases, both positively and negatively. Seventy-six percent (76%) of consumers make an effort to buy products and services from companies that reflect their beliefs while 47% have stopped purchasing products and services from companies that violate those beliefs. What’s more, 82% of buyers would consider no longer purchasing from brands with a partner or supplier that did not properly handle an important issue. Chief among the concerns of consumers in the 2019 survey were issues relating to sustainability. Of the ten most important issues on which consumers want companies to make a stand, protecting the environment (26% of consumers) and climate change (23%) were the most common.

These are findings repeated time and time again. In 2016 for example, a Yale University study found that a significant portion of American consumers consider companies’ global warming impact when making consumption decisions. There, 21% of surveyed Americans refused to buy products from companies that opposed climate action, while 31% actively rewarded companies they perceived as taking steps to reduce global warming.

 

Furthermore, it’s likely that consumer behavior will become even more value-driven over time, as younger, more socially and environmentally conscious shoppers enter the market.

Consumers follow up on sustainability claims and this impacts purchasing decisions

A recent survey of consumers in the U.S. reveals that many are willing to take steps to research products before making purchase decisions . Sixty percent (60%) of consumers surveyed noted that they often did online research on products before purchasing, while 62% responded that they closely scrutinized product labels as part of their research. Coupled with earlier surveys that reveal how consumers use labelling, certification seals, news media reporting and the internet to understand whether companies are truly making a positive impact on the planet, the numbers paint a clear picture. Consumers are not only more value-conscious, they are also making more informed decisions than ever on sustainability claims.

What CSR and consumer values mean for your business

Sustainability concerns are increasingly at the heart of many consumers’ decision-making. Companies that incorporate sustainability into their products and services gain positive impacts on society and the environment and may benefit measurably from improved public goodwill.

An effective sustainability program can be vital in having a positive impact on the world while also helping a company to differentiate itself from its competition. In a time where consumers are more informed than ever, credible communication of your company’s environmental activities is vital.

Creating an effective sustainability program – or improving an existing one – and effectively informing the public about sustainability efforts will inevitably vary from business to business. However, there are some best practices any company can implement, regardless of the activities they perform:

  • Purchase products and materials certified as being environmentally and socially responsible;
  • Monitor and report energy in a way that is transparent and useful for consumers (for example, by reporting energy intensity ratio, which is the amount of energy consumed per function or service);
  • Establish climate performance as a key criterion when selecting suppliers and business; and
  • Implement a sustainability reporting program that complies with voluntary guidelines, such as the standards published by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

Companies that think about sustainability holistically and that implement practical measures into their business practices, based on CSR values, will be better positioned to meet future consumer preferences.

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