Three years into the global recession, it is no surprise consumers worldwide cite economic development as the one issue they want companies to support, according to the 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study. Yet, Americans – more than any other country’s citizens – were the most resolute that this issue be the number one priority for companies to address (43% versus the global average of 34%).
Although economic development may seem like a big problem to tackle, companies are already embracing the issue and bringing it to life with campaigns that are relevant to both consumer needs and the brand itself. Starbucks has recently launched the “Create Jobs for USA” campaign, which pools donations to support small business lending in order to spur job creation across communities nationwide.
Companies should take note that economic development is a macro issue that extends beyond microfinance and into a variety of material issues affecting both business and communities. For example, Chipotle has enlisted the help of Willie Nelson and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O in a movement to support America’s small farms. Not only does the effort invigorate local economies, but it also assists Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” brand.
The 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study showed 87 to 96 percent of consumers in all countries expect companies to support a range of causes, from the environment to poverty. Addressing these diverse issues is the cost of doing business today. Yet, to encourage further differentiation, companies should think about creating new programs or reframing current social commitments within the context of economic development. Doing so will allow companies to make real impact around the one issue truly on the minds of today’s American consumers.