Ethical Companies

Three-quarters of the British population (74%) say more information on a company's social and ethical behaviour would influence their purchasing decisions, according to MORI's latest research.

Three-quarters of the British population (74%) say more information on a company's social and ethical behaviour would influence their purchasing decisions, according to MORI's latest research. Furthermore, nearly nine in 10 people (86%) think companies should actively communicate their community activities -- and six in 10 (59%) say it is acceptable for companies to benefit from these activities.

"Effective communication seems to be a missing link in the practice of corporate responsibility," says Jenny Dawkins, director of MORI's CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) study. "Despite the public's acceptance of -- and desire for -- more information on companies' CSR activity, only three in 10 (30%) can name a company they consider to be particularly socially, environmentally or ethically responsible. Improved communication, especially at the point of purchase, or even mass marketing with an integral responsibility theme, may help close this gap."

MORI's findings show that people consider TV advertising to be the most appropriate method of communicating companies' social and community activities, followed by press advertising, local and national PR activity. In practice, however, most people find out about such activities through personal experience, largely by word of mouth or by working for the company in question. Of the communication methods considered most appropriate, instore communications are currently proving most effective in generating top-of-mind awareness.

MORI has identified a hard core of 'CSR activists' [note 1] comprising around 15% of the British public -- nearly seven million adults. Compared to the population as a whole, they are more likely to be middle-aged, from the higher social grades (ABC1), read the broadsheet newspapers and have a degree.

"These people are potentially a very influential target group for marketeers," says Dawkins. "Their beliefs and behaviours are significantly different to the population at large -- for example, half of all activists say social responsibility is very important when forming a purchase decision, compared to 38% of the public overall, and they are more likely to describe themselves as ethical consumers (50% compared to 24% of the public overall). They are also much more aware of companies' community activities (67% compared to 37%) -- as well as being more critical of them."

Technical details

  1. MORI looks at public behaviour across a range of social, environmental and community activities, in order to identify a group of people more engaged in these issues, termed 'CSR activists'. This group has done five or more of a list of activities in the last year. See Chart 1 below for the detailed list.
  2. For the MORI Reputation Centre's Summer CSR study, a nationally representative quota sample of 2,026 British adults aged 16+ was interviewed throughout Great Britain across 161 sampling points. Interviews were carried out using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing), face-to-face in respondents' homes between 7 July and 11 August 2003. The questionnaire was 'versioned' to keep interviews to a reasonable length, therefore some questions are based on only half the sample. Data have been weighted to reflect the known national population profile.
  3. The CSR studies are part of the Key Audience Research programme -- annual or six-monthly multi-client studies among the most prestigious audiences, such as MPs, journalists, City analysts and investors

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