For Immediate Release
COMPANIES FAIL TO ENGAGE CONSUMERS ON ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES
Three-quarters of Americans give companies a “C” or below on how they’re
engaging consumers around key issues
BOSTON (May 19, 2010) – Eighty-four percent of Americans believe their ideas can help companies create products and services that are a win for consumers, business and society; yet, only half (53%) feel companies are effectively encouraging them to speak up on corporate social and environmental practices and products, according to the 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study, released today by Cone LLC.
A majority of consumers want to be engaged on four key responsible business pillars, including how a company conducts its business (85%), its products and packaging (83%), its support of social and environmental issues (81%) and its marketing and advertising (74%). Consumers are prepared to dedicate time and money to help influence corporate social/environmental practices through surveys and research (70%), buying or boycotting a company’s products (44%) or through email, phone or employee communications (32%), among other activities.
Yet, when it comes to consumer interaction, most Americans say companies are not making the grade. Three-quarters assign companies a “C,” “D,” or “F” on how well they are engaging consumers around critical business issues. This disconnect signals a lost opportunity for companies because consumers are prepared to reward them for engagement. If a company incorporated their ideas, consumers say they would be more likely to buy its products and services (60%), more loyal (54%) and more likely to recommend the company (51%).
“There’s tremendous opportunity to more actively collaborate with consumers and other key stakeholders to achieve mutually beneficial solutions,” says Jonathan Yohannan, senior vice president of Cone. “We call this collaborative approach to addressing social and environmental issues ‘Shared Responsibility’ because diverse stakeholders each have a unique value, role and stake in solving today’s complex global challenges. Companies can’t go it alone.”
Consumers Hold Great Expectations
Americans are holding companies accountable for addressing a range of complex, global issues that may directly or indirectly touch their businesses, including:
- Ensuring product quality and safety (e.g., removing lead) – 92%
- Ensuring worker health and safety – 92%
- Ensuring proper product disposal/recycling – 89%
- Ensuring human rights (e.g., eliminating child labor) – 87%
- Reducing energy use and emissions to combat climate change – 84%
- Preserving natural resources (e.g., forests) – 84%
- Ensuring availability and access to safe water – 83%
- Promoting diversity – 81%
- Protecting threatened and endangered species – 75%
- Minimizing disease – 72%
- Improving nutrition and combating obesity – 69%
- Alleviating poverty – 62%
The range of issues is complemented by an equally extensive menu of business approaches to solve them. Consumers indicate the following are effective ways for a company to help solve social and environmental issues:
- Develop new products and services – 89%
- Change the way it operates (e.g., use only sustainable materials) – 88%
- Use other company resources beyond charitable dollars to support a nonprofit or issue (e.g., employee volunteerism time, use of facilities, professional support or expertise or sponsoring an event) – 86%
- Collaborate with nonprofits, governments, competitors or other groups to address issues collectively – 86%
- Educate consumers about the issues and how they can become involved – 86
- Educate employees to take action – 84%
- Make a charitable donation(s) to support a nonprofit or issue – 83%
“Companies have a unique opportunity to address issues holistically, from the products they create to the partnerships they form to the dollars they give,” says Alison DaSilva, executive vice president of Cone. “And it’s this blend of both social initiatives and business operations – along with the sweat equity and ingenuity of diverse stakeholders – that stands to affect change. We all share responsibility for the issues at hand, and we all stand to benefit from the solutions.”
Transparent Communication Core to Building Trust
Not only do consumers want a voice in the issues, but they are overwhelmingly prepared to listen. A full 92 percent want companies to tell them what they’re doing to improve their products, services and operations. But two key barriers exist:
- Skepticism – 87 percent of consumers believe the communication is one-sided – companies share the positive information about their efforts, but withhold the negative; and,
- Confusion – 67 percent of consumers are confused by the messages companies use to talk about their social and environmental commitments.
“Open, consistent lines of communication are the only way a company can effectively collaborate with diverse stakeholders for the long-term and stay on top of issues that may improve or inhibit its business,” says Yohannan. “It doesn’t mean companies have to solve all of the issues on the table, but it does mean being transparent about their journey.”
For a copy of the complete 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study fact sheet, please visit www.coneinc.com/research. And for additional information about the business approach to Shared Responsibility, please visit www.coneinc.com/sharedresponsibility.
About the Study:
The 2010 Cone Shared Responsibility Study presents the findings of an online survey conducted April 8-9, 2010 by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) among a representative U.S. sample of 1,045 adults comprising 507 men and 538 women, 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is ± 3%.
About Shared Responsibility:
Shared Responsibility is a business strategy that addresses critical business needs, while meeting the expectations and needs of stakeholders and society. For more than 30 years, Cone has been a leader in helping organizations address social and environmental issues (Cause Branding) and change the way they operate for maximum societal benefit (Corporate Responsibility). As a result of this work, Cone is uniquely positioned to lead the convergence of these distinctive yet synergistic business strategies and offers core services, including issue assessments, stakeholder mapping and engagement, partnerships and program development and transparent, integrated communications development.
Cone LLC (www.coneinc.com) is a strategy and communications agency engaged in building brand trust. Cone creates stakeholder loyalty and long-term relationships through the development and execution of Cause Branding, Brand Marketing, Nonprofit Marketing, Corporate Responsibility and Crisis Prevention and Management initiatives. Cone is a part of the Omnicom Group (NYSE: OMC) (www.omnicomgroup.com).