Consumers Expect True Corporate Social Responsibility

When it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR), consumers want more than aspirational mission statements. According to the newly released 2012 Cone Communications Corporate Social Return Trend Tracker, 84 percent of Americans hold companies accountable for producing and communicating the results of CSR commitments by going beyond the mission to robustly communicate progress against well-defined purpose.

“This shift in stakeholder expectations carries significant implications for companies engaged in CSR,” says Cone Communications’ Executive Vice President Jonathan Yohannan. “Purpose is no longer enough, and successful campaigns must demonstrate return for business, brand and society. ‘Proving purpose’ is the new mantra for effective CSR.”

Cone Communications, a public relations and marketing agency recognized as a pioneer in cause marketing and CSR, is establishing a new approach to CSR called Corporate Social Return. This philosophy centers on the conviction that CSR must deliver measurable business, brand and social impacts that yield benefits for vested stakeholders.

Companies that proactively share the details and results of their CSR efforts will be rewarded with increased consumer trust and purchasing. With significant consumer purchasing power on the line, ineffective CSR communications can be a liability. Cone Communications’ research reveals:

  • 86 percent of consumers are more likely to trust a company that reports its CSR results
  • 82 percent say they are more likely to purchase a product that clearly demonstrates the results of the company’s CSR initiatives than one that does not
  • 40 percent say they will not purchase a company’s products or services if CSR results are not communicated

“Companies need to build customized output and outcome measurement components and identify projected stakeholder return at the outset of campaign development, and then track progress along the critical CSR pillars of business, brand and society,” Yohannan adds. “With the stakes so high, measurement can’t be an afterthought or add-on.”

Although today’s savvy consumers understand that companies must realize bottom-line benefits from CSR efforts, they need more guidance and understanding about how their participation makes a difference. The 2012 Cone Communications Corporate Social Return Trend Tracker shows:

  • 84 percent recognize that for a company to make societal impact, it must also realize a business return, such as increased revenue or reduced costs
  • 63 percent say they don’t know where to find information about a company’s CSR efforts and results
  • 55 percent don’t understand the impact they are having when buying a product from a company that says it is socially responsible

“Stakeholders play more powerful roles than ever in a brand’s overall success or failure, and they must be consistently engaged in a company’s CSR efforts and results from the outset,” says Cone Communications’ Executive Vice President Craig Bida. “They need to feel a benefit. This mutual return will become the new table stakes for differentiating CSR efforts.”

For more information about Cone Communications’ services, or for a copy of the 2012 Cone Communications Corporate Social Return Trend Tracker, visit the firm’s website.

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