Among global consumers, Americans place the highest value on corporate community involvement, according to a recent survey by GMI that gauged the opinions of more than 15,000 online consumers in the U.S. and 16 other countries about their attitudes toward socially conscious business practices.
America is unique in its emphasis on giving back to the community. When asked what factor was the most important in determining if a business is socially responsible, consumers in the U.S. rated “contributing to the community” (through sponsorship, grants, employee volunteer programs) highest, with 47 percent citing it as a factor.
On the other hand, all of the other countries surveyed (e.g. India, Canada, Australia, Germany, China and Japan) selected environmentally-friendly practices (recycling, using biodegradable products) as the top factor.
Americans, however, chose damaging the environments as the main reason they would think that a company is socially irresponsible.
Other countries, including France (60 percent), Denmark (52 percent) and Italy (45 percent) selected the use of child labor as the main factor in making them think a corporation is socially irresponsible.
“In the high-tech era where employees are expected to work 24/7, it’s significant that Americans rate giving back to the community as their top priority in recognizing socially responsible companies,” says Marjorie Thompson, co-author of Brand Spirit: How Cause Related Marketing Builds Brands. “It shows that people want to feel connected to each other and that they are willing to reward businesses who tap into this sense of mutual support and belonging. Companies will need to start thinking of their community programs as core to their businesses and brands, and central to how they market themselves.”
However, the GMIPoll found that only 42 percent of all Americans are willing to spend more for products branded as organic, environmentally friendly, or fair trade, except for the Y Generation. While only 14 percent of 18-29 year olds label themselves as socially responsible consumers, half of this age group (50 percent) say they will spend more on organic, environmentally friendly or fair trade products compared to their older and wealthier counterparts, with only 37 percent of 45-64 years olds saying they would spend more on green products.
Thompson says: “Based on the findings, Generation Y is obviously more environmentally conscious and socially savvy, which is expected given that many are aware of the issues surrounding globalization and trade and how this can negatively affect the environment, labor pool and the local communities.”