Ends And Means

The cynics among you believe that as a brand or as a company behavior matters far less than a low price and a quality product. If you provide a great service or a good product and price it as low as possible, consumers will buy. It doesn’t matter if you pollute the air or pay lousy wages. Consumers just want to know what’s in it for them. The good news, from my perspective, is that you are wrong. Here is the evidence to back it up.

The Havas folks did a study to understand how corporate social responsibility has evolved over the past decade. They looked at how are companies responding to consumer pressures to work toward the common good and what those consumers now expect from their brand partners. Most importantly, the studied how critical these expectations are to their purchase decisions.

As it turns out, consumers are extremely interested in this. Half of mainstream consumers and two-thirds of Prosumers (a term coined by futurist Alvin Toffler – a consumer who produces and consumes media – and who doesn’t?) avoid buying from businesses deemed to have a negative social or environmental impact. As the study states: “People still want bargains, of course, but it’s even more essential that products and services offer some sort of enduring value.”

Some other points from the study:

  • When we asked respondents how important it is for a company’s CEO to do certain things, paying workers a fair wage and providing a pleasant work environment received higher scores than earning profits or even being environmentally conscious.
  • People aren’t looking for businesses to act as quasi-governments. On the contrary, around two-thirds of our global sample actually fear the power big corporations already wield. What they want to see are all the world’s players—governments, corporations, NGOs, citizens—working together to tackle problems that no single entity can solve alone.
  • Two-thirds of our global sample agreed that businesses actually bear as much responsibility as governments for driving positive social change, and 62 percent said they’d like their favorite brands to play a bigger role in solving social problems.

The point is that if you believe that your brand or company can let the ends – revenues and profits – justify any means, you’re sadly mistaken.  The study shows that companies that do good are more likely to do well.  Isn’t that the end we’re all after?

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