The role of business in society

Thousands of consumers in countries around the globe are demanding a higher level of responsibility by companies in dealing with societal issues, and consumers report they are already using their own spending and loyalty to press these demands. This global consumer movement surfaces in the 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study, a 10-country survey recently released by Cone Communications and Echo Research. The stylishly-presented survey is worth reading: it found that “the desire to see companies drive social and environmental change was clear and consistent across every country (surveyed)”. At its heart is an exploration of people’s expectations of business and its role in society: a much-touted debate that, according to this report, has already been settled by consumers: “consumers around the world have already come to their conclusion: companies must reward stakeholders, not just shareholders.” Only six per cent of consumers globally hold businesses accountable for making money. 13 per cent of consumers believe that businesses should do “something” in the communities in which they operate. But for 81 per cent of the population, the expectation is much more. The question of how companies should operate in a way that benefits societal goals is also discussed: “when it comes to making a true and lasting difference in the world,” says the report, “consumers say look not outside, but within.” Changing operations is the leading way consumers want to see companies address social and environmental issues. Nearly a third of respondents (31 per cent) cited this approach as the one they would most like to see companies take, trumping all others. Consumers recognise the importance of philanthropy and volunteerism (often the only approaches they may have been exposed to) but see that those alone are not the primary strategies for greatest impact. Taken from 2011 Cone/Echo Global CR Opportunity Study.

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