Seventy-one percent of North Americans want to know about the socially responsible behavior of brands they buy – but the majority of people cannot identify a list of major brands as socially responsible or socially irresponsible, according to An April 2008 online poll of 5,000 North Americans for Conscientious Innovation’s latest Shift Report.
The study also demonstrates that brands that have spent significant marketing dollars communicating green initiatives such as Wal-Mart and GE are not connecting. Only 19% of people identify both Wal-Mart and GE a socially responsible companies. Only 6.5% of people identify Bank of America as a socially responsible brand, while these companies have lead the way with green and CSR (corporate social responsibility) marketing communications in 2007.
In addition, “green” is not the most important sustainability issue for consumers and isolates the key brand characteristics consumers are looking for when defining a company as socially responsible or not. While the majority of people rank global warming as an important sustainability issue (58%), when looked at in context of sustainability overall, they rank far lower than issues that fall into the social, personal and spiritual sustainability sectors — such as connecting with friends, family and community (90%), fair trade (73%), employee treatment (85%). Organic products fell near the bottom as an important sustainability issue for only 30% of people and a commitment to “buying local and supporting locally based business” ranked much higher.
The study also revealed that people are sensitive to a disconnect between glossy ad campaigns and tangible operating practices when ranking key brand characteristics they look for when determining if a brand is socially responsible or not. These include product design (65%), packaging (64%), produced locally/sold by a locally based business (57%). While not at the top, affiliation with a not-for-profit or charitable cause is also important to 41% of the population.
The study reveals particular opportunity – and challenge for the top three categories consumers plan to make socially responsible decisions: Vacation Choices (46%), Financial Investments (45%) and Choices Related to My Car (43%).