Corporate Social Responsibility: Reputation and Consumers – Part 1

Corporate Social Responsibility is increasingly prevalent: more consumers are taking notice, and more governments are legislating its importance. In response to this, I am conducting quantitative research into consumer attitudes and behaviours regarding CSR, and therefore how companies can best capitalise on this.

By Reason Digital · January 13, 2017

8,000 businesses around the world recently signed the UN Global Compact pledging to show good global citizenship in areas of human rights, labour standards and environmental protection. This is one of the most important statements of intent in relation to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) ever.

CSR may just sound like a dull way of saying companies are trying to do ‘good’ by giving something back to society, but it’s becoming increasingly important and is growing massively as a movement.

With their huge power and influence, you might take for granted that big businesses would do their most to improve human rights and labour standards. However we are often left out of the loop when it comes to their responsibility – something which they should arguably be held accountable for.

I am in the process of researching people’s attitudes towards CSR and looking at the effect of CSR initiatives on corporations’ reputation/profitability.

girl stood on a manchester rooftop

Hi! I’m Cody.

I am currently at the University of Manchester, about to enter my final year studying Sociology. I’m going to be here at Reason Digital for four weeks carrying out my internship – part of a national programme called Q-Step – designed to enable and encourage social science students to develop their quantitative research skills in an employment setting.

I will be conducting primary research looking at attitudes towards CSR; an issue that companies can no longer afford to ignore due to its rapid growth and increased scrutiny. And it’s an issue that Reason Digital are looking to break ground in with their new tool, Impact, which companies can use to record and analyse their CSR.

The research will provide insight into the perceived importance of CSR among consumers, and therefore how (and whether) companies should modify their current business strategies to accommodate this.

With the help of activists, social media and some highly publicised examples of CSR in the news (mostly for the wrong reasons!), we are now much more aware of companies’ huge responsibility and influence on society. Who can forget BP’s oil rig disaster which caused irreversible damage to the environment in the Gulf of Mexico? Or when GAP made headlines when it was exposed for its lack of health and safety in Bangladeshi factories?

The findings from the Cone Communications Global CSR Study (2015) show that when companies do engage properly with CSR policies, the rewards can be hugely positive. Not only do properly implemented CSR policies have the power to make a positive difference to society, but they can also boost a company’s reputation.

90% of the over 10,000 consumers surveyed would switch to brands that supported responsible causes, and 84% bought responsible products when available. Most consumers in this study see CSR as a personal responsibility to be integrated and championed. It seems CSR can earn the loyalty of customers who want to buy into the products and the values of the company.

This, in turn, equates to increased sales: 71% of those surveyed said they would pay more for socially responsible goods and services, and 81% said they’d curtail wasteful spending if it would have a positive impact on environmental and social issues.

It’s clear from these figures that CSR is something that businesses can’t ignore. However it remains an under-researched topic, and one which many businesses are needing guidance with. That’s where my research will help, providing insight into consumer attitudes and behaviours, and pointing businesses in the right direction.

Read the findings from this research project

Go to part 2