Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  13 Oct 2011

MARKETING: Shoppers Want Better Behaved Brands


Recent Western Cape Business News

Cape Town - Eighty-five percent of respondents would boycott a company or brand if they suspected it was acting in an irresponsible or damaging way towards its people, its community or its environment.  Reinforcing this is the fact that over three-quarters of them (76%) would be prepared to pay a little more for a product or service that was ethical in its social, environmental and general business practices.

The Ogilvy Earth South Africa Sustainability Survey was designed to see out how ‘sust’ (or sussed) people are and find out what their attitudes are towards sustainability and environmental issues.  The survey was conducted online over a period of seven months and was completed by a total of 800 individual respondents in South Africa; the majority lives in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, is aged between 26 and 45 years, is the main shopper in the household and falls within in the LSM 6-10 category.

Other results reveal that nearly everyone in the poll (92.1%) agrees that climate change poses a real threat to how we will live in the future, which is interesting given that ‘climate change’ ranks 10th in the list of most pressing problems facing the country.  What this response does show though is that the respondents are aware of the problem and its negative impact.  Awareness is acute on other issues too:  nearly 90% (87.9%) of those surveyed think that not enough attention is given to the issue of water conservation;  over three-quarters of the sample (78%) would regularly recycle glass, paper and plastic if it were easier to do so; 84% believe that it is important that the products they use should be made from sustainable and renewable sources; 84% agree that companies should let them know more about where their food comes from; and a staggering 90% of people want to be shown simple ways to reduce water and electricity consumption.

The large majority of people (91%) want big brands to keep them up to date with news about the positive contribution they are making in society.  Supporting this attitude is the fact that 60.9% of people will buy a product because of the corporate social responsibility CSI) initiatives that the brand or company is involved in.  It would appear that, when it comes to corporate social responsibility, bragging would serve brands very well. 

In terms of understanding what constitutes corporate social responsibility, 82.3% of respondents believe that this should include all the following:

  • cleaning up the environment, planting trees, creating food gardens and other similar community environment related projects;

  • Reducing pollution from factories;

  • Contributing to social developing – eg supporting schools and literacy programmes;

  • Creating job opportunities to help alleviate poverty.

Caution is needed when it comes to green-washing (using environmental messaging to boost a brand’s integrity – genuine or perceived).  Asked about environmental messages (green-washing), the response was limp.  While 36.6% agree that green claims are just another money spinner and only 18.3% are able to trust a company’s green credentials, most were neutral on this.  Thirty-eight percent were neutral about green claims being a money spinner and 40.7% were neutral about whether a company’s green credentials could be trusted.  The overriding impression from this is that consumers don’t know whether they can trust green claims.  Ogilvy Earth’s strategist, Melissa Baird says:  “This uncertainty is bound to have come from green washing.  Companies and brands need to be clear, honest and inspiring in their messaging.  For example, planting loads of trees does not make a company green and that is the subtle – yet vital – difference.

Communicating CSI initiatives is separate to communicating a brand or company’s journey towards becoming more sustainable. They are not the same messages although they are often construed as being the same thing.”

In terms of where the responsibility lies for addressing the biggest challenges we face in South Africa, over three-quarters of respondents (76%) believe everyone in society has a role to play; the balance (24%) identified that these issues should be addressed by government and large corporations.

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