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Going Public With Transparency and Social Responsibility Initiatives

Consumers want to know more about the products and services that they pay for, as there has been a growing trend in consumer habits to purchase from brands that remain inline with one’s own personal interests and beliefs.

Posted by Joe Gerard on April 12th, 2010

The effects of the economy impact companies in a variety of ways. In a recent survey conducted by Landor Associates, Penn Schoen Berland and Burson-Marsteller,evidence shows that the importance consumers place on transparency and corporate responsibility has increased. Consumers want to know more about the products and services that they pay for, as there has been a growing trend in consumer habits to purchase from brands that remain inline with one’s own personal interests and beliefs. The Corporate Social Responsibility Branding Survey finds that 77% of consumers feel that it’s important that companies are socially responsible.

The Corporate Social Responsibility Branding Survey- 2010

The survey discloses the fact that consumers feel that companies within industries where responsible behaviour is the most important factor tend to fall short of expectations. 19% of respondents define corporate responsibility as the level of self-regulation and accountability a company takes in governing themselves. The industries where respondents most highly value responsibility- financial services, healthcare, and media are perceived as performing worst when it comes to transparency and responsibility. The healthcare industry fared especially badly, as just 35% of consumers say that the industry has performed well on social responsibility over the last 5 years– a 10% point drop since 2009.

Scott Osman, global director of Landor Associates’ citizenship branding practice said:

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“The Industries that consumers perceive as lacking in responsibility may have the greatest opportunity to benefit from authentically improving their image. Johnson & Johnson, a recognized leader in corporate responsibility, performed very well relative to the healthcare sector this year. The fact that consumers cite the poor performance of these industries shows that they care and are paying attention. By communicating real success in the area of corporate responsibility, corporations have the potential for considerable benefits.”

Many companies have not taken advantage of the fact that they have the ability to influence consumer perceptions of their brand through communicating their efforts surrounding social responsibility issues. Only 13% of survey respondents reported that they had actually read about a company’s social responsibility initiatives on a company’s website. Of that group, 75% of them indicated that it made them more likely to purchase products or services from that company.

Eric Biel, managing director for corporate responsibility at Burson-Marsteller said:

“Companies need to combine strong social responsibility programs with effective communication of what they are doing. While many consumers may not be precise in how they define terms like ‘corporate social responsibility,’ they have a clear sense of how they expect companies to behave. They expect companies to offer high-quality products at good prices and to explain how they treat their employees well, give back to their communities, and respect the environment.”

This survey suggests that companies go public with their social responsibility initiatives in order to communicate their mission and vision to the public. If consumers are making more of their purchase decisions based on a company’s commitment to social responsibility, it seems like a good idea to give consumer what they want and let them know that your company cares too- and for the healthcare and financial industries, it looks like it could do wonders for company reputation!

The actions taken to ensure responsibility will vary among industries, however, if your company establishes an ethics department, creates policies for stricter accounting and audit controls, installs an investigation software system for tracking internal issues, reduces its carbon footprint, or becomes involved in a charitable cause, these are all actions worthy of public recognition.

Ethisphere Ethics Inside Rating

Ethisphere has designed the Ethics Inside Certification, as they have observed that companies increasingly notice a correlation between ethical business practices and long-term market success. However, companies must also make sure that their actions actually back up the socially responsible message they choose to communicate, as word will travel quickly about any company that talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk.

Publicly displaying awards or recognition for transparency, ethics or social responsibility cannot hurt a company. When these recognitions are made public by the company, it shows that a company has actually acted in a socially responsible manner, fully demonstrating their commitment to transparency, ethics and other responsible business practices.

When a company receives outsider acknowledgement for their responsibility efforts, it adds credibility to the company’s reputation as an industry leader in ethics. Ethisphere states that “being certified as “Ethics Inside®” means that your organization, whether public or private, cares about conducting business in an ethical and sustainable manner.” Some of the benefits of obtaining the Ethics Inside Certification, as outlined on the Ethisphere website are:

  • Talented employees are more willing to work for your company.
  • Customers will want to do business with your company.
  • Other businesses feel comfort in partnering with your company.
  • Investors want to hold stock in your company.
  • Regulators (and potential judges/ juries) know that your organization is making a real effort to prevent compliance failures.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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