Twenty Years Later, Cause And Social Impact Reign

This week we are proud to share the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study. In the twenty years since Cone Communications first started researching American attitudes and actions around corporate support of social and environmental issues, the verdict is clear: cause is here to stay.

But marketers shouldn't rest on their laurels just yet. Although cause purchasing has increased an astounding 170 percent since 1993, consumers are increasingly looking for proof of progress toward companies' social and environmental commitments; in fact, just 16 percent believes companies have made significant impact around these issues.

The study also reveals new socially engaged consumer segments, including multicultural audiences and Millennials. Enthusiasm for companies to address social and environmental issues reaches new highs when polling Hispanic and African American audiences. Millennials, a generation that's grown up with cause marketing, brings its own nuances to the table. These populations are critical stakeholders and essential partners as companies look to drive meaningful social impact.

Here we've outlined four key takeaways from the study:

Consumer demand for cause is at an all-time high

  • 54% of U.S. consumers bought a product associated with a cause over the last 12 months, increasing 170% since 1993
  • 89% is likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality, jumping nearly 35% since 1993
  • 91% wants even more of the products and services they use to support cause
  • 88% wants to hear how companies are supporting social and environmental issues

High demand comes with high expectations for impact – and doubts about corporate impact persist

  • 16% of Americans believe companies have made significant positive impact on social or environmental issues
  • 25% believes their own purchases substantially influence those issues

Multicultural consumers emerge as critical stakeholders, with Hispanics leading the way

  • 94% of Hispanics are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause (vs. 89% of the general U.S. population)
  • Hispanics are more likely to consider a company's support of issues when deciding: what to buy (86% vs. 82%), where to work (80% vs. 71%) and where to invest 70% vs. 60%)
  • Hispanics more frequently go beyond the register to donate (70% vs. 65%), volunteer (47% vs. 42%) and advocate on behalf of companies (43% vs. 38%)

Millennials come of age as cause proponents, but bring a critical eye

  • 78% of Millennials consider a company's CSR commitments before deciding where to work (vs. 71% of the general U.S. population)
  • 64% uses social media to address or engage with companies around social or environmental issues (vs. 51% of the general population)
  • 26% will share negative information about companies and issues they care about (vs. 20% of the general U.S. population)

Check out the full report on our website at or join our webinar on 10/16 to learn more!


Back to Insights