Cone survey finds consumers have growing interest in CSR efforts

BOSTON: The public's embrace of cause marketing and CSR efforts continues to expand, making them an increasingly necessary part of any company's operations, according to a new study from Cone Inc.

BOSTON: The public's embrace of cause marketing and CSR efforts continues to expand, making them an increasingly necessary part of any company's operations, according to a new study from Cone Inc.

The Cause Evolution Survey, released earlier this month, found that high majorities of Americans express general support for cause-related corporate efforts. More than 80% said that companies "have a responsibility to help support causes," and more than 90% said they have a "more positive image of a company that supports a cause" they care about.

"Citizens and consumers are taking into account a business' operating practices when deciding what to buy," said Carol Cone, chairman and founder of Cone. "Linking with a social issue is becoming seen as corporate strategy. It's something you have to do, it's no longer nice to do."

The survey also showed that companies must take the potential business impact of reputation crises seriously: 85% of respondents said that they would switch away from a company or service provider "if a problem with business practices was uncovered."

Cone has performed the survey for the past 14 years, and its results indicate that CSR's importance is becoming more widespread. The percentages of Americans who use a company's social issues work when deciding where to work, who to invest in, and who to welcome into their communities to do business have all risen by more than 20 points since 2001.

Good CSR practices-and good internal communications about them-also appear key to keeping employees happy. Around 90% of employees that are "familiar with their companies' cause programs" say they are proud of their company, loyal to its values, and eager to participate in the cause work themselves.

Consumers are also sophisticated about the nature of the CSR programs, with 90% saying that the causes a company supports should be consistent with its own business practices.

"There's a lot of cause marketing...that isn't good enough to break through any more," said Cone. "It needs to be a full-blown, long term commitment."

Perhaps the most fundamental takeaway for the corporate world, Cone believes, is that cause work is here to stay. "Good is the new black," she said. "It's a staple in your wardrobe. It's not going to go away."

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