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Consumers Will Pay More For Corporate Social Responsibility

By Patrick Sullivan - June 17, 2014

More than half of online consumers around the world (55 percent) will pay more for products and services from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. North America (42 percent) and Europe (40 percent) lag behind the Asia-Pacific region (64 percent), Latin America (63 percent), and Africa and the Middle East (63 percent).

These are some results from a survey of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries by New York City-based survey and measurement firm Nielsen. The survey, called “Doing Well By Doing Good,” was conducted via the Internet in February and March 2014.

Those percentages are a big increase from 2011, according to the study. The global average of 55 percent is 10 percentage points higher than 2011. Latin America saw the biggest jump, at 13 percentage points, while the seven percentage point gain in North America was the smallest.

A slightly lower percentage, 52 percent, of survey respondents actually put their money where their mouths are and bought a product from a socially conscious company. Again, Latin America (65 percent), Asia-Pacific (59 percent) and Middle East/Africa (59 percent) led the way, with 40 percent of consumers in North America and Europe also answering in the affirmative.

That same percentage, 52 percent, said they check the labels on products before buying “to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact,” according to a release. About two-thirds of consumers in Asia-Pacific (63 percent), Latin America (62 percent) and Middle East/Africa (62 percent) check the labels, while only about one-third of consumers in Europe (36 percent) and North America (32 percent) do this.

Nielsen conducted a year-over-year analysis of 20 brands in nine countries to see if the self-reported results of the survey tracked with sales. The firm found sales increased by 2 percent for products with sustainability claims on the packages and a 5 percent lift for those brands with sustainability marketing initiatives. In contrast, sales for 14 brands with no sustainability claims rose only 1 percent between March 2013 and March 2014.

“At the moment of truth—in store, online and elsewhere—consumers are making a choice and a choice that is heavily influenced by brands with a social purpose,” Amy Fenton, Nielsen’s global leader of public development and sustainability said in the report.

Millennials, those consumers aged 21 through 34, represent about half (51 percent)of the consumers willing to pay more for products from sustainable countries, and 51 percent of those who check package labeling for indications of sustainability. The difference between Millennials and older consumers is especially startk in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East/Africa regions. Young consumers are three times as likely as Generation Xers (age 35 to 49) and 12 times as likely as Boomers (age 50 to 64) to respond favorably to sustainability actions in those regions.

The top cause around the world was increasing access to clean water, with 59 percent of respondents saying this cause was worthy of extreme concern. This was followed by improving access to sanitation and eradicating poverty and hunger, both at 53 percent. Combating non-communicable diseases clocked in at 51 percent, while ensuring environmental sustainability and reducing child mortality rounded out the top concerns, at 50 percent each.

“Companies that are doing well by doing good place an outward, rather than inward, focus on their efforts,” said Fenton. “Strategies need to be built in harmony with consumer expectations and the social drivers that matter most to them and not solely based on what a company things they should do.”

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