April is Earth Month and on Monday April 22nd over 20 million Americans and one billion people in more than 192 countries will celebrate Earth Day the largest environmental event throughout the globe. Now in its 43rd year Earth Day is observed in support of protecting the environment and bringing to light environmental issues. Although progress has been made over the years and particularly over the past decade there is still a lot that needs to be done to continue the preservation of our planet and its resources. Organization’s do their part via CSR business values which have become key to positively impacting local (and global) communities, minimizing environmental footprint and educating employees and customers on the benefits of sustainable business (and individual) practices.
Recent research by Cone Communications, a public relations and marketing agency, surveyed 1,019 American adults on their views regarding CSR business initiatives and their level of engagement with these organizations as a consumer. The results of the 2012 Corporate Social Return Trend Tracker (and the 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker) shows that there is a shift in perception in that simply having a public CSR business purpose is no longer enough to capture consumer’s attention, instead the focus is more on results. The research provided insight organizations should consider when planning their CSR business initiatives and engaging their customers. Nonprofits may want to take heed in attracting new donors.
Purpose vs. Results – Only 31% of respondents were more likely to purchase from organizations that talked publicly about their CSR mission. In contrast 69% would buy from companies that talked about their results. The consumer has become savvier in that having a mission is no longer sufficient to garner their business or support. Instead, they are more interested in a results oriented message that provides facts on the impact the initiatives are having. Companies are better served to strategically quantify the impact of their CSR communications in addition to simply outlining their initiatives.
Higher Expectations – An overwhelming number of respondents felt that companies should: not only invest socially but also operate responsibly (91%); should be held accountable for producing and communicating results of their CSR commitments (84%); and see a return in increased sales and reduction of operating expenses (84%). Clearly consumers realize that CSR efforts have benefits for companies, but ultimately the key lies in communicating the results it’s producing.
Builds Trust – Communicating results helps with an organization’s transparency which, in turn, helps build trust with its customers. 86% were more likely to trust companies that reported the results of their CSR efforts. In addition, 82% of those surveyed were also more likely to purchase products or services from companies that demonstrated their CSR results over those that didn’t and 40% would not purchase from these companies at all. Engaging and communicating with the consumer has doubled the impact by earning their trust and securing their business for the long term.
Effective Communication – Although 86% of respondents wished that companies would tell them about the results of their CSR initiatives, 55% don’t really understand the impact they have by purchasing products or services from socially responsible companies and only 37% know where to find the information. Communication can be provided through various channels, including the company website, blog, newsletters and social media. An annual sustainability report is another excellent strategy to communicate with customers and stakeholders on their efforts and the impact that their established CSR principles are producing.
As CSR business strategies continue to evolve, so do the expectations of consumers. To remain competitive and build trust and loyalty more effort is required in giving the consumer what they want: transparency and accessible information that provides more than just what is being done but also the results of the CSR initiatives for the company and the consumer.
How does your organization communicate the results of its CSR business programs?