EDITORIAL: Why scruples will drive the market

The public perception of a consumer activist might well be a sandal-clad, Swampy look-alike, but today’s activist is just as likely to be a middle- England housewife or a company director. In fact, a recent poll by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) shows that more than three-quarters of the population are likely to attempt to exert influence on a company’s policies by boycotting their products.

The public perception of a consumer activist might well be a

sandal-clad, Swampy look-alike, but today’s activist is just as likely

to be a middle- England housewife or a company director. In fact, a

recent poll by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) shows that

more than three-quarters of the population are likely to attempt to

exert influence on a company’s policies by boycotting their

products.



The survey ’Business, Government and the new century citizen’ paints the

picture of a new, more militant, consumer for whom ethical

considerations outweigh those of cost and availability. And it is a

growing trend. Nearly half of the respondents said that they had

boycotted products in the past, but a staggering 76 per cent said that

they would be willing to do so in future. At the same time more than a

quarter of those interviewed said they strongly identified with more

than one pressure group.



The 1990s saw public trust in institutions decline and often transferred

to commercial brands. Now that trust is in danger of transferring again

to overtly ethically-driven activist groups.The PR implications are

profound and will no doubt generate a rash of cause-related marketing

initiatives.



But superficial links with charities and NGOs will not be enough.

Today’s consumer activist is well able to determine whether a company’s

ethical stance is skin deep.



The real solution lies in an enhanced role for communication

professionals as the corporate conscience and even greater efforts by

corporations to understand the NGOs and pressure groups that are

exerting such influence on the mindset of today’s consumer.



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