CSR, Social Media and the Recession
(3BLMedia/theCSRfeed) Given the economic downturn, several studies have come out over the past few months looking at the attitudes of both consumers and senior executives regarding the state of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Throw in the (relatively) new world of social media, where news is spread in a matter of seconds, and the topic becomes even more interesting. So what’s everyone thinking?
The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship surveyed 756 executives across the United States for its “The State of Corporate Citizenship, 2009” report. And the findings are quite promising. More than 50% of executives believe corporate citizenship is even more important in a recession, and while reputation came out as the number one driver (for 70% of executives), many are seeing additional benefits from a more sustainable approach.
According to the report, 65% of large companies (1,000+ employees) are designing and offering sustainable products or services and 85% are reducing costs through improved materials efficiency. The benefits to employee engagement are also becoming more visible with 45% of companies compensating employees for ideas benefiting the bottom line and the environment or community, compared to 37% in 2007.
So what about consumers, are they still giving their money to companies and brands that have a social purpose, despite the recession? According to the 2009 Edelman goodpurpose(TM) Consumer Study, which surveyed 6,000 consumers in 10 countries, yes they are.
57% of consumers say a company or brand has earned their business because it has been doing its part to support good causes, and perhaps more importantly, 67% say they would switch brands if another brand of similar quality supported a good cause. Other interesting highlights:
66% believe that it’s no longer enough for corporations to merely give money away, but that they must integrate good causes into their day-to-day business
64% would recommend a brand that supports a good cause – up from 52% last year globally
59% would help a brand promote its products if there was a good cause behind it
64% expect brands today to support a good cause
63 percent of all respondents are looking to brands and companies to make it easier for them to make a difference (sounds like an opportunity!)
The Role of Social Media
So where does social media fit into all of this. Well first of all, if you’re not using social media, you should probably start. According to the 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study, 78% of new media users interact with companies or brands via new media sites and tools, an increase of 32 percent from 2008, resulting in a range of positive results:
“When asked about their impressions of companies or brands present in new media, users said they:”
Feel a stronger connection (72%, up from 56% in 2008)
Feel better served (68%, up from 57% in 2008)
Have a more positive image (74%)
Are more willing to engage (70%)
Have an improved opinion when one of their friends interacts (64%)
Choose to “follow”/”friend”/”fan” because it helps showcase their personality online (52%)
So what does this mean for corporate social responsibility? It’s an opportunity to engage in dialogue with those people that care. The study found that 74% expect companies to join conversations about their responsibility practices happening on new media, and they’re willing to act on the information they read:
30% have made a purchase based on POSITIVE information learned about a product, company or brand
23% have switched brands or boycotted a company based on NEGATIVE information learned about a product, company or brand.
It’s clear from these results that corporate social responsibility is here to stay. Executives are increasingly seeing the business value, consumers are increasingly expecting it, and with the power that 140 characters holds these days, you probably can’t afford not to be involved.
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