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Consumers Believe Businesses Affect Social Issues

Waggener Edstrom Study: Companies Seen as Agents of Change

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A recent poll by independent PR shop Waggener Edstrom finds that a large majority of consumers (86%) believe profitable businesses can organize to address social issues, and more than 70% believe companies are making positive changes in society through the products and services they sell.

The survey of 511 consumers and 320 marketing professionals was done late last month and revealed that, above all else, consumers' leading expectations for businesses are that they provide quality goods and services as well as stable working conditions for their employees while operating profitably and responsibly.

Surprisingly, consumers believe that businesses, not government or nongovernmental organizations, can make the biggest difference in society. Consumers pointed to factors such as innovation, nimbleness and a focus on results for their belief in corporations. A majority (60%) of consumers believe that businesses are in the best position to effect positive results on social issues, as opposed to governments (14%). The study also found that 53% of consumers were more likely to purchase goods and services from companies that clearly demonstrated their commitments to social responsibility.

The study finds that consumers still tend to be skeptical, on first impression, of companies attempting to address social issues, with 31% believing the efforts are more a marketing ploy than anything else, while 16% say it takes a company away from its primary mission.

The marketing professionals surveyed tended to fall in line with consumers, with 92% of marketing and communications professionals saying that for-profit companies can successfully organize to address social issues and more than 70% believing there are for-profit companies making a positive change in society through the products and services they sell today.

A PDF version of the study can be found here.

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