Over a third of consumers believe social purpose should come before profit

New research by Ipsos in partnership with Neil Gaught & Associates and Forster Communications highlights the public’s strong belief that the current way of doing business isn’t working and their desire to see business to do more to make a positive difference.

New research released today by Ipsos in partnership with Neil Gaught & Associates and Forster Communications highlights the public’s strong belief that the current way of doing business isn’t working and their desire to see business to do more to make a positive difference.

  • Just 18% of consumers agree the current economic system is working well for them and less than a third believe it is working well for businesses
  • Almost half of consumers (47%) believe that ethically run businesses are better for the economy and almost exactly the same proportion (48%) prefer to use or purchase from businesses that act ethically
  • 37% believe businesses should put social purpose ahead of making profits
  • 70% more likely to purchase products or services from businesses paying employees a fair wage and 47% more likely to do the same for businesses which have a positive stance on social issues
  • 49% would not take a job with a business they believe to behave unethically

The survey results have been released to mark the publication of “Core – How a Single Organizing Idea can Change Business for Good”. The book has been written by Neil Gaught, an independent strategic advisor who has spent 25 years helping businesses, NGO’s and public sector organisations around the world find their focus and improve their performance and impact.

Responding to the survey findings, Neil commented:

Yet again we see hard data clearly indicating that the call for change is growing. Together with the emerging data surrounding the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), the case for a Single Organizing Idea that changes business for good and puts sustainability at the core would seem like common sense but unfortunately it’s not. There really can be no more excuses - the strategy is simple, what is required is belief and leadership. I believe that businesses will respond and adapt – those that don’t run the risk of being left behind.

Jonathan Glennie, Director of the Ipsos Sustainable Development Research Centre which commissioned the survey believes we are at a tipping point in terms of the role of businesses in social change:

It’s striking just how few people are happy with the current way of doing business. Being sustainable and ethical used to be marginal concerns for consumers but this survey points to us being close to a situation where the majority want to see businesses take a different approach and put those considerations on the same level as making profits.

The research findings were debated at an event to mark the book’s publication where Neil gathered leaders from businesses including Leon, Unilever, Aviva and Centrica alongside changemakers from civil society, to consider what the business sector can do to deliver more social change.

The event was hosted by Forster Communications, the social change PR agency, and Peter Gilheany, its Director, believes one of the big challenges is to create the right conditions for encouraging others to follow the lead of pioneering businesses in this area:

You would be hard pushed to find anyone, whether a member of the public or a business leader, who believes we don’t need to rethink our current economic system and the unsustainable focus on short term financial return at the expense of everything else. Businesses like Unilever are leading the way but we need systemic change and long term commitment, from government through the investment community and consumers, to create a more sustainable, effective and productive way of doing business, one that delivers positive results alongside financial performance across the board.

Technical note

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted 26 May through 9 June, 2017. For the survey, a sample of 1,001 adults age 18+ from the United Kingdom.

The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’s online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”) and partner online panel sources and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.K. Population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age,  region, and education.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,070, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=4.9).

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