What drives a company’s reputation for responsibility – and how sector affects it

GlobeScan’s public attitudes tracking shows that the corporate world as a whole continues to suffer from a lack of trust in the eyes of consumers. Companies, and global ones in particular, are far less trusted than NGOs, and nearly half of citizens when polled this year were unable to call to mind a socially or environmentally responsible company when asked to do so.
However, the latest analysis of our findings reveals that the companies that are named as socially or environmentally responsible tend to cluster in a number of key sectors – with food companies the most frequently mentioned as socially responsible, and accounting for 13 percent of the total. As our chart this week shows – and as befits a highly consumer-facing sector, personal experience of a food company’s products or services is highly influential in making people feel that it is socially responsible, with advertising not far behind as a key information channel for communicating a sense of social responsibility.
Interestingly, though, it appears that a controversial sector does not have to be a bar to a positive reputation for responsibility for a company. Despite being rated as one of the least responsible sectors overall, oil companies are third most likely to be cited as examples of environmentally responsible companies (by 5%, same as electronic equipment / electrical appliances companies). Here, however, the consumer experience is far less significant in driving this perception, and news reports are the most significant channel by some distance – well ahead of the experience people have when filling up their cars. This highlights the need for companies seeking to engage consumers around issues of corporate responsibility to adapt the information channels they prioritize carefully according to their sector, or risk wasting precious time and budget.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2012
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.