In early February, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates conducted 1,001 online interviews looking to quantify the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on consumer behavior.
They found striking differences in consumer perceptions of various industries. Financial services (27%), health care (35%) and media (37%) received the lowest positive ratings. By comparison, 62% of those surveyed gave the food industry a positive rating.
Media: just ahead of financial services and health care. Ouch.
The public definition of CSR remains soft. A fifth described it as either “concerned with the local community” or “self-regulation and accountability”. Somewhat fewer respondents described it as “giving back to society” or “ethics, honesty and lawfulness”.
“Treating employees well” was important to about 8% of those surveyed. Interestingly, “environmentally responsible” (7%) ranked only sixth, while “customer-oriented” (3%) ranked eighth.
The study also found that consumers are willing to support companies who can demonstrate leading positions in CSR. Although most consumers say they would pay more for products from such companies, the study sees CSR more as an opportunity to differentiate those products, not necessarily to obtain a premium price.
For media, in chaos there may be opportunity. Penn, Schoen & Berland conclude that “companies need to offer high-quality products at good prices, while communicating to consumers about the ways they respect and give back to their employees, communities and the environment.”
One thing that the survey may have under-emphasized: the importance of internal communication and support. The survey found that 78% of those responding either are unaware or believe their company does not have CSR practices in place.
If charity begins at home, employees at beleaguered media firms might benefit from management that raised its sights and invested in a vision, even in a dark time. The payoff could come in at least share, if not the price of products sold.