Would you Stop Buying Apple In the Name of Sustainability?

by Aman Singh Das | November 16, 2010

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87 percent of consumers worldwide believe that business needs to equate at least equal weight on society's interests as on business interests.

That finding—from Edelman's 2010 GoodPurpose study—is the sort of thing that makes people stand up and take notice, whether you work in business development, marketing, finance, human resources, technology or communications.

PR firm Edelman released the findings of the study at BSR's annual conference earlier this month. They emphasize that consumers worldwide are shifting toward a deeper preference for brands that align with a good cause. The findings were released by Carol Cone, Edelman's Managing Director for Brand & Corporate Citizenship, and the founder of cause marketing firm Cone, LLC. That was followed by a panel featuring The Economist's Matthew Bishop and representatives from PepsiCo and Levi Strauss.

Highlights:

The GoodPurpose study by Edelman

"Cause marketing is dead"

That controversial statement is how Cone opened the panel, adding, "That [cause marketing] world is way over. Purpose has replaced cause marketing and branding." Companies aren’t building marketing plans around a cause anymore, she argued. Rather, "they are infusing their very strategy and business model with purposeful corporate citizenship." [Also read: The PR Take on CSR]

Defining real purpose

Picking up where Cone left off, the always-entertaining Matthew Bishop began with a prediction: "If we continue the current road toward demanding transparency and corporate social responsibility, within the next five to 10 years, we will begin to see corporate board meetings being live streamed to select people."

Chuckling about the ambitiousness of his own statement, he went on to note, "Likewise, the real question is how much of this data [in the Goodpurpose study] is picking up on aspirations rather than real choices [of consumers]."

PepsiCo: Performance with Purpose

Alleging that PepsiCo's latest mantra of "Performance with Purpose" was indeed a verification of this shift from cause marketing to purposeful corporate citizenship at companies, Communications Director for PepsiCo Americas Beverages Melisa Tezanos gave high points to CEO Indra Nooyi for pushing for a companywide cultural change that today drives all their business functions.

"However, Nooyi is completely unapologetic about giving 'performance' as much importance as the 'purpose' part and she makes no bones about it," said Tezanos, adding that this helps everyone across the company stay committed to a culture of profitability with purpose. Explaining the drivers behind PepsiCo's highly successful Refresh project, she further stated, "For millennials, social responsibility is huge. We've seen through research again and again that their purchase intent goes up significantly when the brand is associated with a good cause."

And finally, referring to the findings of the Edelman study—and Cone's earlier comment, she said, "Marketing used to be blamed for being short-termism. Today, marketers are the biggest defenders of long termism."

But would you give up Cola?

Bringing the conversation back to a level plain field, Bishop concluded with a sobering thought, "But what is real and what is fake with purpose? Will Pepsi ever move beyond the heart of its products, i.e., increasing obesity? Are we really going to stop buying Apple [products] because they have crappy environmental policies?"

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The GoodPurpose study

With over 7,259 respondents, the survey encompassed 13 countries and was conducted by consulting firm StrategyOne. Currently in its fourth year, the study's main objective was to see whether—and how much—purpose plays into purchase decisions worldwide, and further, how these transform into consumer activism via social media.

Highlights:

-- India tops the list for "consumers that are most engaged in supporting good causes," followed by Mexico, Brazil and China. UAE completed the top five trailed by the U.S. comes in at No. 6.

--87 percent of consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society's interests as on business interests.

--62 percent believe that it is no longer enough for companies to give money towards causes; they must integrate good causes into their everyday business.

--"Protecting the environment" tops the list of causes that global consumers care most about followed by "improving the quality of healthcare."

--More than one-third of consumers globally would punish a company that doesn’t actively support a good cause, by criticizing it to others (37 percent), refusing to buy it (37 percent), or sharing negative opinions and experiences (37 percent).

--Nearly half (46 percent) would not invest in such a company.

You can find more details on the study at the GoodPurpose website.

Previous posts from BSR 2010:

5 Leadership Traits That Can Lead to Performance with Passion

Filed Under: CSR

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