What Is Good for the World Is Good for Business, Research Proves It

06/03/2015 03:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2016

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When it comes to the environment and social issues, the word "business" usually has a bad reputation, but it's not always deserved. At a theoretical level, business is actually one of mankind's most sophisticated and powerful inventions. But the problem with businesses is that they think short-term and ignore some of their diverse stakeholders. Unfortunately, once they start down this path, it's hard for businesses to think long-term and value all their stakeholders unless they can justify the expense.

So when new research is published that explains how business can actually improve profits by thinking about the world at large, it's exciting to read and it needs to be shared. The 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study reveals that consumers care more about the world than ever before, and they spend their money with companies that share that belief. Here are just a few important takeaways:

Consumers Know More, Research More, and Make More Informed Decisions That Put the World First

Cone calls today's consumers "empowered." Meaning that they read more reviews, talk to their social networks, and do more research about products, and the companies behind them. And if they don't like what they see, the go elsewhere. According to the research:

  • Ninety percent are willing to boycott a company based on its CSR practices (or lack thereof)
  • Eighty one percent are willing to consume or purchase fewer products to preserve natural resources

  • Eighty percent will buy a product from an unknown brand if it has strong CSR commitments
  • Not surprisingly, the majority of consumers -- unless they read information otherwise -- assume that businesses are bad for the world. Meaning that if your company isn't engaging in CSR activities AND communicating its impact, consumers assume that it is bad for the world and are likely to do business elsewhere.

    Consumers Are More Loyal to Companies That Are Loyal to the World, and They Talk About It on Social Media

    Years ago, Patagonia CEO Yvon Chouinard shared that "Every time we've done the right thing for the planet, we've made more money." Research shows that this is true for all businesses.

    When companies support social or environmental issues, consumer affinity overwhelmingly upsurges:

    • Ninety three percent of global citizens will have a more positive image of that company

  • Ninety percent will be more likely to trust that company
  • Eighty eight percent will be more loyal (i.e., continue buying products or services)
  • Eight-in-10 or more consider CSR when deciding what to buy or where to shop (84 percent), which products and services to recommend to others (82 percent), which companies they want to see doing business in their communities (84 percent) and where to work (79 percent)
  • -2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study

    A large reason for the increase in business that results from CSR activities can be attributed to people's willingness to promote world-positive companies throughout their social media networks.

    When Companies Do Good for the World, They Inspire More Good

    One of the most interesting stories to emerge from this research is the untold story of what happens after companies initiate CSR activities. While the numbers aren't as notable as above, they also speak to the underlying potential within business to not only drive change, but to inspire its entire network to change for the better, too.

    The study revealed that:

    • Seventy six percent of people would donate to a charity supported by a company they trust

  • Seventy two percent would volunteer for a cause supported by a company they trust
  • Unknowingly, companies are realizing that not only can they use their financial and human capital to create change, but they can also inspire others to change, too.

    CSR Continues to Evolve, Faster Than Before

    In addition to the research showing how businesses benefit from CSR initiatives, the study also shared another unexpected highlight: Beyond putting pressure on business to create changes "consumers also understand they have an obligation to make change as well." And there is a growing body of evidence from other reports proving a wide array of benefits to business beyond increased sales, including things like recruiting, retention, and employee development.

    This growing body of powerful and compelling research is best summarized by Cone's Executive Vice President, Alison daSilva "This study reveals a higher level of understanding, awareness and support of corporate social responsibility efforts from the world's consumers... consumers remain steadfast as open-minded partners for collaboration to drive forward social and environmental progress." To take advantage of this, "companies must advance CSR beyond a peripheral brand attribute to create an entirely new CSR experience" -- one that thinks long-term and truly takes into account its diverse stakeholder universe.

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