Nielsen: global consumers are willing to pay extra for socially-responsible goods

Half of global consumers surveyed are willing to pay more for goods and services from companies that have implemented programmes to give back to society, an increase of five points from 2011 (45%), according to a new study from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy.

Willingness to spend more with socially-responsible companies increased in 43 of the 58 countries Nielsen measured (74%).

In the UK, just 32% of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for goods and services from companies that “give back”.  While this is up from 27% two years ago, it is still well below the global average (50%) and the European average (36%).

This contrasts markedly with many Asian countries. According to Nielsen’s survey, more than two-thirds of respondents in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia – and three-quarters of respondents in India – said they would pay more for goods and services from socially-responsible companies – the four countries in the survey most likely to do so.

“In countries where scepticism towards corporate social responsibility runs high, cause-marketers face an uphill battle,” said Nic Covey, vice president of corporate social responsibility at Nielsen.  “In these markets, especially, social impact programmes must be incontestably authentic to a company’s business objectives, vision and values.” 

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Consumers increasingly care about social impact

The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility surveyed more than 29,000 Internet respondents in 58 countries. The percentage of consumers now willing to pay more for goods and services from companies that give back, compared to two years ago, increased among both males and females and across all age groups. Respondents under 30 were most likely to say they would spend more. Among consumers aged 40-44, 50% agree they would pay more, up from 38% two years ago – the biggest percentage point increase of all surveyed demographic groups.

Covey said: “While cause-marketing programmes seem to resonate most strongly among younger respondents, the rapid change in sentiment among middle-aged consumers expands the cause opportunity for brands. Today, brands can confidently focus ‘purpose messaging’ on both younger and older consumers.” 

Consumers’ willingness to pay versus what they actually pay

Nielsen’s findings reveal that 43% of global respondents claim to have actually spent more (in the past) on products and services from companies that have implemented programmes to give back to society – just 7% fewer than those who say they would be willing to pay (now or in the future). Consumers in Asia-Pacific are most likely to say they had actually spent more on products and services from socially-responsible companies (Thailand, 66%; the Philippines, 64%; Indonesia, 56%).

Several markets indicated a high willingness to pay more for products and services from companies that give back, but experience lower rates of those that actually do pay more.  This potentially indicates, according to Covey, “markets that are uniquely ripe for cause-marketing programmes.” In Slovakia, for instance, 50% of respondents say they would be willing to spend more, but just 22% say they had actually done so. Similar spreads existed in Bulgaria (53% willing, but 31% who had), Peru (62% willing, and 42% who had), and Hong Kong (52% willing but 32% who had).

Covey said: “Today, the question is not whether consumers care about social impact – they do – but about which programmes, by how much, and then how do you appeal to them. The answer isn’t necessarily a traditional cause-marketing campaign. General responsibility, sustainable innovation and purpose messaging might also engage these consumers. No matter the approach, savvy brands are figuring out how to hit this nerve.” 

Retail Times’ readers can read the Nielsen study here: Nielsen Global Report Consumers Who Care August 2013