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With CSR In Global Demand, Corporate Reputation Is At Stake, According To New Research From Cone Communications And Echo Research

BOSTON, May 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- No longer a nice-to-do, corporate social responsibility is now a reputational imperative – or liability. As revealed in the 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study, released today, companies are expected to be an active participant – if not a driving force – in solving the most pressing social and environmental issues. Corporations that disregard this consumer-demanded role risk more than their reputation – nine-in-10 global citizens say they would boycott if they learned of irresponsible behavior.

(Logo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20111004/NE79797LOGO)

The study, a follow-up to the 2011 global survey of consumer attitudes, perceptions and behaviors around CSR, was conducted by Cone Communications and Echo Research. Reflecting the sentiments of more than 10,000 citizens in 10 of the largest countries in the world by GDP, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, India and Japan, the research is complemented with insights from country-specific CSR experts.

"Consumers across the globe resoundingly affirm CSR as a critical business strategy," says Dan Soulas, managing director of Echo Research. "It is vital for companies to understand the unique, market-level nuances to effectively participate in the CSR interchange. A one-size-fits-all approach just won't work."

CSR has never been more urgent – incidents of corporate negligence are tenaciously reported by mass media, but consumers all over the world are also taking to social channels to learn and engage around critical issues without constraint. Nearly two-thirds of global consumers (62%) say they use social media to address or engage with companies around CSR. Although the majority shares positive information with their networks, more than a quarter are communicating negative news:

  • 34% of consumers use social media to share positive information about companies and issues
  • 29% are using social media to learn more about specific organizations and issues
  • 26% are using social media to share negative information

Social media is accelerating CSR, but especially in highly mobile-savvy and emerging countries China, India and Brazil, where 90 percent, 89 percent and 85 percent of the respective populations report using social channels to engage with companies around their CSR efforts.

"Social media is changing the face of CSR, as citizens worldwide have unprecedented access to information about corporate behavior," says Alison DaSilva, executive vice president – Research & Insights, Cone Communications. "They are poised to not only engage with companies around vital issues but also serve as CSR megaphones, equally propagating the good and bad."

As global citizens become increasingly aware of businesses' behaviors and CSR initiatives – in part because of social media, they are also becoming more astute about both corporate and consumer impacts. Around the world, the majority of consumers feel both individuals and corporations are having some degree of positive influence on social and environmental issues; however, just one-quarter feels either is making a significant impact.

  • 22% of consumers believes companies have made significant positive impact on social and environmental issues
  • 27% believes consumers themselves can have significant positive impact through their purchases

"Companies have a job to do," DaSilva says. "This research reveals an increasingly social, savvy consumer who is looking for proof of progress. Varying degrees of perceived individual and corporate impact underscore the overwhelming need for companies to consistently communicate both corporate and consumer CSR return."

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