“People are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies, but almost no companies have any profile as socially responsible.”
– PSBA Research
In a study conducted this March, Penn Schoen Berland Associates found that despite significant investments by many major corporations in corporate social responsibility initiatives, Americans have virtually no awareness of who does what, and who does things well.
Some interesting insights from the study first point to the facts that the majority of Americans (despite the recession) want to be associated with socially responsible companies.
- 75% will pay more for a product from a socially responsible company.
- 56% say working for a socially responsible company makes a difference.
- 40% will take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.
The study also found that being “honest and trustworthy” was the most important company attribute—ranking higher than “quality” and “value”—regarding who Americans will do business with.
But the most unfortunate (and least surprising) set of findings in this research is how ill equipped Americans are to say what companies are socially responsible.
- 70% of those surveyed were unaware of any socially responsible activities of their own employers.
- There was no correlation between those companies that Americans ranked as being leaders in social responsibility and the actual performance of those companies based on evaluations in the CRO 100. (conducted annually by the Corporate Responsibility Officer Association)
Clearly, this should be a wake up call to the leadership of all companies and those responsible for managing their reputation and brands. In sum, it suggests there is a huge opportunity to use CSR efforts as a differentiator with an American audience that cares about those issues more than ever before and is placing trust at greater currency than quality and value.
The call to action is to convert socially responsible practices into branded assets. But this will require internal corporate silos to be broken down so people responsible for operations, HR and internal communication, PR, marketing branding, advertising, and all other forms of communication are working together around a focused and integrated CSR message.