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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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When it comes to corporate social responsibility, listen to your customers
Heather Clancy

December, 2010

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: I don’t care whether or not climate change is fact or fiction. I look at the corporate social responsibility imperative – and I do believe it is an imperative – from a much more pragmatic point of view that even serious skeptics should be able to grasp. It is this: to ignore your responsibility as a planetary custodian is to ignore what your customers want.

To me, the social media movement and worldwide sustainability movement are very much interconnected. Those are what is making the rise of what a new survey describes as the “citizen consumer” entirely possible.

According to the survey, which is detailed as part of the 2010 Edelman goodpurpose global Study, 87 percent of Americans believe businesses should be spending at least equal time thinking about the good of the planet as they are their own profit potential. OK, between you and me, I think that number is high, based just on chats with my own neighbors. But I do think consumer mindsets are changing – thanks to tools like Twitter and Facebook. I also think it is the numbers from the emerging markets that should get your attention.

The goodpurpose study, conducted by StrategyOne, covers 7,259 adults from 13 different countries: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.   

Consider this: close to 80 percent of the surveyed consumers in India and China expect brands to do something to support a good cause. The number was even higher for Brazil and Mexico, where the responses were 87 percent and 85 percent, respectively. That number for the United States? Just 63 percent.

Those four countries also scored higher when it came to these statements:

  • “I expect brands to donate a portion of their profits to support a good cause.”
  • “I expect brands to support local communities.”
  • “I have more trust in a brand that is ethically and socially responsible.”

And, this one:

  • “I would switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supports a good cause.”

Now do I have your attention?

I think it is universally accepted that the real future growth potential for most established multinational businesses lies in emerging markets. Well, it turns out those are exactly the countries that care most about your impact on the environment and, specifically, about how you are affecting the natural resources in their local communities.

Corporate social responsibility and sustainability initiatives don’t seem at all frivolous when you look at them from that perspective.

Earlier this month, I posted a brief blog outlining the “10 best carbon and energy management software tools” businesses might consider to get a handle on their electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Some clown subsequently sent me a 500-word email about the vast media conspiracy around global warming, which, by the way, was never even mentioned in my article—quite on purpose.

That’s because in my mind, debates over climate change science detract from the central issue: the real reason businesses should manage for sustainability and corporate social responsibility is because it is good for business.

About Heather Clancy

Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist in the New York area with more than 20 years experience covering the high-tech industry. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. She covers environmental issues through the lens of technology daily in two different ZDNet blogs—GreenTech Pastures and Smart Planet’s Business Brains.



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