APCO Worldwide's recent survey of 419 "opinion elites" found that while companies' corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are influential on consumer purchase habits, companies still need to engage in greater communication of their CRS policies.
APCO defined "opinion elites" as those representing the top 10 percent of society in terms of media consumption, civic engagement, and interest in public policy issues. The respondents, representing10 countries in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, completed the survey between February 5 and April 17, 2004. The sampling margin of error for the survey was 4.8%.
While more than half of respondents said they knew "some" information about the social responsibility of companies, a third remarked that they knew little or nothing about it.
The other findings in the survey pinpointed just how important it was for companies to highlight their CSR endeavors.
For example, positive CSR information has led 72% of the respondents to purchase a company's product or services and 61% to recommend the company to others. Conversely, negative CSR news has led 60% to a boycott a company's products and services.
?[Companies] can shape the opinion environment through their own communications, as opposed to fearing the impact of [negative] information from external organizations,? said Chrystine Zacherau, VP of APCO Insight. ?It?s another indication that communicating about CSR does have positive effects for corporations.?
But the public doesn't just expect the companies to merely follow the law when it comes to CSR. Three out of four respondents said they expected companies that consider themselves social responsible need to do more than the law requires.
Companies also need third-party verifiers to best drive the message home.
Ninety-one percent of respondents found CSR more credible when verified by a third-party such as a non-governmental organization or local government.
?They need to take advantage of opportunities whether it is working with organizations that will give them merit as well as talking on their own through the media,? Zacherau said. ?They need to do more so their messages definitely resonate.?
APCO conducted the study, which is part of a five-year research project, through its opinion research division, Insight.