LONDON 27th April 2012 – This week, Edelman announces results from the firm’s fifth annual global consumer study, goodpurpose®, that explores consumer attitudes around social purpose across 16 markets, including their commitment to specific societal issues and their expectations of brands and companies. This year, three themes emerged in the UK, one of the five Western European countries studied: the impact of the economy on how consumers are spending their earnings; their views on personal responsibility in addressing societal issues and their expectations of brands and companies. Each presents clear opportunities for brand managers and business leaders alike.
Across the UK, people are scaling back on leisure spending, but are increasingly willing to buy brands that support the causes they care about. 80%, compared to 85% globally, claimed that they have been affected by the economic downturn and over a third have reduced spending on food and electricity. In order, they are spending less on leisure shopping (47%), food (40%), electricity in their home (36%) and many have stopped saving money (36%). However, 43% on average, are purchasing a brand that supports a good cause at least monthly, an increase of 7 percentage points since 2010.
Despite clear economic challenges, 39% believe that the responsibility of “people like me” to address societal issues has increased over the past year, compared to 46% globally. And just over a quarter believe that compared to five years ago people like them now have more power and influence to make a difference. Notably, participants in the survey ranked the importance of “people like me” to address societal issues behind government (54%) and ahead of NGOs, business in general, and religious institutions.
“This spells significant opportunity for marketers. While consumers currently have less time and money, they still feel they’re responsible to help,” said Carol Cone, global practice chair, Business + Social Purpose, Edelman. “Brands and corporations can ease the burden for people by making involvement in social issues easier and more aligned with the core needs they face today – jobs, hunger, education and healthcare.”
Expectations of Businesses
The number of British consumers that now believe “it is OK for a brand to support good causes and make money at the same time” has increased from 57% in 2007 to 71% in 2012. Furthermore, those who also say they have more trust in a brand that is ethically and socially responsible has increased in just three years to 58%. This is reflected further in the fact that 84% deem it important for businesses to place equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interest (compared to 86% globally).
However, only 18% rate business’ performance in addressing societal issues as excellent or good. A picture of a deeply skeptical British public also emerged from the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, with trust in both government and business down from 2011. Just 29% of people expressed trust in government to do the right thing, with only slightly more people (38%) trusting businesses to do what is right.
Contributing to the current debate about the potential of “responsible capitalism”, nearly three-quarters of British surveyed would be more likely to give their business to a company that supports good causes and has fair prices, than a company that simply offers discounts. The good causes British consumers personally care about most are improving the quality of healthcare (90%), reducing poverty (86%), protecting the environment (86%), education (85%) and alleviating hunger and homelessness (85%).
“There is an urgent need and appetite to move towards wealth creation and sustainable economic development that builds both trust and loyalty,” said Robert Phillips, president and CEO, EMEA. “Without a drive for real social reform and towards real societal values – and without a new approach to business, based upon values-based leadership and public engagement – the erosion of trust and confidence in businesses will continue. Today’s leaders have an opportunity to make a step-change in their approach and pursue a three-dimensional model of Profit + Purpose + Engagement.”
The study found that not just in the UK, but globally, citizens are calling for business leaders to genuinely embed purpose, grounded in core values, into their everyday operations:
- 56% believe CEOs need to create innovative products that are socially responsible
- 55% believe CEOs need to make a long-term commitment to address societal issues
- 55% believe CEOs need to publically support societal issues
- 52% believe CEOs need to motivate employees to take part in societal issues
For more information please visit Edelman’s goodpurpose site