Consumers in the US are scaling back their participation in societal issues more than their peers throughout the world, according to the 2012 Edelman goodpurpose study.

With 82 percent of US consumers affected by the economic downturn, the percentage involved in a cause dropped from 60 percent to 53 percent between 2010 and 2012, the only decline among the 16 countries surveyed. Yet, for the first time ever, the US was the only country to believe responsibility of tackling society’s issues falls most heavily on the shoulders of “people like me” (35 percent) and not government (22 percent).

“The tension of this paradox spells significant opportunity for marketers,” says Carol Cone, global chair of the firm’s new business and social purpose practice. “While US consumers currently have less time and money to put towards societal issues, they still feel they’re most responsible to help. Brands and corporations can ease the burden for consumers by making involvement in social issues easier and more aligned with the core needs they face today: jobs, hunger, education and healthcare.”

Despite the declining involvement in the US, purpose remains a deeply held belief around the globe that is driving consumer behavior and preference.

When quality and price of a product are deemed equal, social purpose has consistently been the leading purchase trigger for global consumers since 2008, muscling design and innovation and brand loyalty aside. Over those years, the relevance of Purpose as a purchase factor has risen 26 percent globally. Growth has been even more prominent over the last 18 months in markets such as Japan (+100 percent), China (+79 percent), Netherlands (+43 percent), India (+43 percent), and Germany (+36 percent).

Brands aligning themselves with causes are not only securing more consumer consideration, but are also earning their dollars and support. Nearly half (47 percent) of consumers have bought a brand at least monthly that supports a cause, representing a 47 percent increase from 2010.

Over the years, consumers have taken increased action on behalf of brands with Purpose:
• 39 percent increase in “would recommend” cause-related brands
• 34 percent increase in “would promote” cause-related brands
• 9 percent increase in “would switch” brands if a similar brand supported a good cause

The study found that consumers are calling for business leaders to genuinely embed Purpose into their everyday operations:
• 56 percent believe CEOs need to create innovative products that are socially responsible
• 55 percent believe CEOs need to make a long-term commitment to address societal issues
• 55 percent believe CEOs need to publically support societal issues
• 52 percent believe CEOs need to motivate employees to take part in societal issues