June 1, 2010

Chinese Consumers Increasingly Sceptical of Companies’ CSR Communications: Global Poll

London – Chinese consumers are becoming as cynical as those in the West about the way companies communicate about their social and environmental performance, according to the latest wave of GlobeScan’s annual global tracking research on public views of corporate social responsibility.

The study, which interviewed over 30,000 people across 34 countries, finds that while in 2005 more than 80 per cent of Chinese consumers felt that companies communicated ‘honestly and truthfully’ about their social and environmental performance, this has now fallen sharply, with only 40 per cent feeling this way in this year’s study.

GlobeScan Senior Vice President Chris Coulter commented: “The Chinese economy may be forecast to grow at 10% this year, but these findings suggest this rapid growth has a cost. Companies are being seen as less responsible, and consumers are starting to question whether their communications on CSR match the reality of their behaviour.”

Some improvement in views in Europe and North America

Attitudes towards companies have long been much more cynical by comparison across Europe and North America, but this year’s study showed that views of companies’ CSR communications have improved in the USA, UK, India and France. Even so, less than half in all these countries feel that companies’ messaging around CSR is honest and truthful.

Internet—but not company websites—a growing source for CSR information

Just under one in three (30%) consumers say they have heard or read about companies’ CSR efforts in the past year, and the study also shows that these consumers are increasingly looking to the internet for credible information in this area. The proportion of those across 19 tracking countries who say they learn about companies’ CSR efforts from the web has risen from 30 per cent to 45 per cent since 2006.

But there has been a much smaller increase (from 20 to 23 per cent) in the proportion of those who say they got this information from companies’ own websites—suggesting many consumers are preferring to trust social media and third party sites over what companies say about their own activities.

Chris Coulter continues: “The dramatic increase in people looking to the internet for information on corporate social and environmental practices has significant implications for companies. Companies aspiring to build a strong corporate responsibility reputation and brand need a sophisticated social media strategy that goes well beyond the management of their own web site.”

BRICs more downbeat since 2008 about numbers of responsible businesses

In a further sign of increased consumer scepticism in the rapidly developing economies, consumers in the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China—are now more negative about the proportion of companies that are doing all they can to be more responsible. Between 2008 and 2010, the proportion of companies that consumers estimate are acting responsibly has fallen back from 29 to 24 per cent in Russia, 39 to 32 per cent in India, 41 to 37 per cent in China but has remained relatively static (35 to 34 per cent) in Brazil.

In contrast, North Americans are slightly more upbeat, estimating that 37 per cent of companies were responsible, compared to 34 per cent in 2008.

For media interviews please contact:

  • Sam Mountford, Research Director
  • GlobeScan Incorporated
  • Office phone: +44 20 7253 1447
  • Mobile phone: +44 7854 132635
  • sam.mountford@GlobeScan.com
  • Oliver Martin, Director Global Development
  • GlobeScan Incorporated
  • Office phone: +1 416 969 3073
  • Mobile phone: +1 416 721 3544
  • oliver.martin@GlobeScan.com

Notes to editors:

GlobeScan is an international opinion research consultancy. Companies, multilateral institutions, governments and NGOs trust GlobeScan for its unique expertise in reputation research, sustainability, and issues management. GlobeScan provides global organizations with evidence-based insight and advice to help them build strong brands, manage relations with key stakeholders, and define their strategic positioning. GlobeScan conducts research in over 90 countries, is certified to the ISO 9001:2008 standard for its quality management system, and is a signatory to the UN Global Compact. Established in 1987, GlobeScan is an independent, management-owned company with offices in London, Toronto, and San Francisco. www.GlobeScan.com

GlobeScan Radar is a syndicated annual survey of global public opinion, covering a variety of issues around business in society. GlobeScan has been tracking issues and societal expectations for business across the world since 1999. GlobeScan Radar provides global decision-makers with critical insights and comparative country metrics needed to better understand the trends shaping their international business and policy environment. The research program is designed to help shape corporate strategies, policy positions, initiative development, and communications activities.

The latest GlobeScan Radar results are based on interviews with 30,580 citizens in Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the USA. Interviews were conducted via face-to-face or by telephone between 30 November, 2009 to 16 February, 2010. Polling was conducted by GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. Some urban-only surveying was conducted in certain developing countries, following generally accepted research standards in each country. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2 to 3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.