What is it that customers really want from the businesses they frequent? A March 2015 study by Cone and Ebiquity tackled just that. They found that a resounding 91% expected companies to do more than simply attempt to make their bottom lines look better.

For many consumers, it’s also about how socially and environmentally responsible a company is.

When the Internet users were asked what action they’d take toward companies based on their expectations of doing more than turning a profit, the study found consumers would:

  • Buy products that were socially or environmentally responsible – 63%
  • Make donations – 61%
  • Boycott companies that acted irresponsibly – 53%
  • Share responsible companies’ efforts with friends – 47%
  • Volunteer – 40%
  • Research where a company stands on social and environmental issues – 37%
  • Provide feedback about a company’s responsibility to the company itself – 34%.

In addition, more than 8 in 10 respondents tried to make socially and environmentally responsible purchases whenever they had the chance, often choosing to buy from a responsible company over their competition. A resounding 90% of respondents also made it clear that they want to see more of these responsible products and services available to them in the future.

Of course, these findings weren’t all positive for business owners. Nearly all of the respondents claimed they had no problem dumping a company with irresponsible practices in order to give their money to competitors. When all other factors are equal—like price and quality—the vast majority of these respondents would shift their spending to companies that supported a cause.

The study further found that more than 80% of respondents would only recommend products and services to their network once they were sure about where the company stood on social and environmental issues.

While the March study seems to make it clear that businesses will benefit by acting in socially and environmentally responsible ways, what isn’t clear is exactly how to convey that information to consumers. A July Cone and Ebiquity study regarding getting the word out revealed the current effectiveness of different channels to be:

  • Product package or label – 19%
  • Media stories and interviews – 15%
  • Broadcast, online or print advertising – 14%
  • Social networks – 13%
  • Company website – 12%
  • In-store – 9%
  • Company-sponsored community events – 7%
  • Mail – 7%
  • Mobile – 5%.

With no clear winner among the marketing channels, it remains critical that businesses use a variety of different channels to share their causes with consumers and spread the word about their social and environmental activities. That said, simply placing this information on the product packaging itself can help a company reach nearly one-fifth of interested consumers.

With a growing number of consumers actively seeking out information about the social and environmental practices of businesses, the opportunity exists for many companies to expand their bottom lines while still acting in a responsible manner.


eMarketer. Corporate Social Responsibility: Nice Guys Finish First. July 22, 2015.