Our most recent wave of public opinion research across 23 countries shows that 45 percent of consumers are unable or unwilling to name a socially responsible company.
The top socially responsible brands that consumers do name include a range of global and national brands representing a range of sectors, as shown in the table below.
When asked how they learned that these specific companies are leaders, consumers point primarily to personal experience, the media and advertising. These channels are seen as particularly important in countries such as China, Pakistan and Ghana.
In the last few years, global companies have had to deal with increasing stakeholder expectations, mounting economic, social and environmental challenges along with new, disruptive technologies. They have needed to expand into new geographies and cultures and collaborate well outside their comfort zones.
Furthermore, the dynamics of the relationship between business and society are changing. The digital revolution has been affecting societal expectations of companies’ transparency. While consumers are more dispersed geographically, they are also more connected, particularly through social media channels. Everything local is now global.
In this cluttered, fast-paced world where countless corporate messaging initiatives compete for attention, consumers have an increasingly hard time fully comprehending what companies stand for.
Addressing the world’s most pressing challenges can provide companies with a great opportunity to grow their corporate leadership, provided they can develop meaningful sustainability strategies and engage better with the public. It is no longer enough for businesses to assume they know how the general public will respond to a corporate policy or initiative. Engagement is a critical part of how to build affinity with consumers when trust in business is so low, especially on the topic of CSR. An engagement strategy that strives for clear and transparent communication is in fact the only way to recognized leadership.
Companies therefore must find new and innovative ways to communicate their messages and engage with consumers on a more personal level. By creating shared experiences and insights, they will provide an opportunity for consumers to truly understand and believe in what they are doing.