Credibility gap persists around companies’ CSR communications

The credibility of corporate communications around issues of social and environmental responsibility is an increasingly serious problem for companies, according to GlobeScan’s latest global public tracking. In the ten countries tracked by GlobeScan over the past decade, fewer than two in five (38%) now say they believe companies communicate honestly about their social and environmental performance. Other findings reveal a consensus view that companies embrace CSR not because they are genuinely committed to it, but in order to improve their images.

This proportion is particularly low in the world’s most developed economies, where well under a third feel that corporate CSR communications are credible.

Our latest data also suggests that, by failing to address the credibility gap, companies may be missing the chance to engage constructively with an increasingly receptive public. An average of 72 percent in the same countries say they are “very interested” in learning more about what companies are doing to be socially and environmentally responsible—a figure that has risen sharply in many countries over recent years.

There is unlikely to be a single solution to the lack of credibility of companies’ communications around social and environmental responsibility. A franker approach to challenges that companies are facing, the increased use of independent third parties to critically appraise companies’ reporting, and an embrace of social media are all likely to play important roles.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2012 

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

High Public Trust in NGOs, but is it Built on Shaky Foundations?

Over many years, GlobeScan’s regular tracking of global publics’ trust in different types of institutions has shown that NGOs are clearly the most trusted. Compared to global and national businesses, governments, and the media, trust in NGOs is significantly higher and continues to rise slowly.

To further investigate why this high level of trust exists, we asked people to say what NGOs had done recently to earn their trust. The word cloud derived from their responses starkly illustrates two key findings. The first is the prominence of “help” (and to a lesser extent “support”) along with two key recipients of that help, “people” and “environment.” This highlights how important tangible outcomes are to people’s willingness to see NGOs as trustworthy. It also adds weight to what GlobeScan found in its global public polling in 2008—that the consensus of public support for NGOs’ role in aid and assistance work is greater than for their political campaigning and advocacy.

Paradoxically, the other very frequent response is “nothing.” This raises an important question of whether the high level of trust in NGOs we witness is, at least in part, based on blind faith that NGOs can be trusted, simply because of what they represent. Indeed in recent research conducted in the US and UK, we found few people admit to knowing much about how non-profits and charities operate, despite most people believing they are the most effective change-makers.

NGOs should be wary of this potentially shaky foundation of public trust. Both historical and recent examples of scandals and controversies engulfing NGOs demonstrate how quickly trust can be wiped away, especially in the age of social media.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2011

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

Building public trust in business—still a long way to go

GlobeScan regularly tracks the level of trust that people around the world have in different institutions—in global and national businesses, governments, NGOs, the media, and others. Our recent research show that trust in business to operate in the best interests of society remains low—and finds that, while trust has increased somewhat in recent years, business continues to suffer from a significant trust deficit compared to the non-profit sector.

To investigate further, we asked people around the world to say what business had done to earn their trust recently. The word cloud derived from their responses starkly illustrates the cynicism that many feel, with the most common response, by far, being that companies have done “nothing” to earn trust. Those who are able to name a trust-building accomplishment most commonly cite the benefits to society that come from employment and from higher-quality products and services. This lack of awareness highlights how difficult it is for corporate CSR initiatives to “cut through” to the wider public: words such as “social,” “charity,” or “environment” are much less prominent in the cloud.

However, the picture diverges sharply between the world’s major industrialized economies, where cynicism about the motives of business dominates, and emerging economies, where the increased corporate activity associated with rapid economic growth also raises the profile of companies’ social investment, infrastructure projects, and environmental initiatives, as well as job creation.

Next week’s Featured Finding will look at trust in NGOs.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2011

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

Corruption concerns in developing world pose challenge for business

While problems such as the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone, climate change, and unrest in the Middle East preoccupy governments around the world as 2012 begins, GlobeScan’s regular monitoring of global concern over a range of issues highlights that it is more immediate and everyday problems that are often at the forefront of citizens’ minds.

In GlobeScan’s annual tracking research, corruption once again emerges as one of the global problems considered to be most serious. It is also the problem that citizens are most likely to cite when asked which global problems they have discussed with their friends and family over the past month.

As this map shows, corruption tops the list of “most talked about” problems in a range of developing and emerging economies, including Peru in South America, Ghana and Egypt in Africa, Turkey in Europe, and India and Indonesia in Asia. Corruption is also often cited as a barrier to getting to grips with many of the other global problems that, as GlobeScan’s tracking shows, preoccupy many global citizens.

Taking a strong and public stand against corruption will be an important element in what businesses need to do to demonstrate their relevance to citizens’ lives, help build public trust, and maintain their social licence to operate.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2011 

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

Shopping Choices Can Make a Positive Difference to Farmers and Workers in Developing Countries

11 October 2011 – Consumers across the world remain firm in their belief that their shopping choices can make a positive difference for farmers and workers in developing countries, according to a new global survey of 17 000 consumers in 24 countries conducted for Fairtrade International by international research consultancy GlobeScan. Six out of ten consumers (59%) feel empowered to make a difference through their shopping choices. This conviction remains as strong as or stronger than at the outset of the … “Shopping Choices Can Make a Positive Difference to Farmers and Workers in Developing Countries”

High Trust and Global Recognition Makes Fairtrade an Enabler of Ethical Consumer Choice

Shopping Choices Can Make a Positive Difference to Farmers and Workers in Developing Countries: Global Poll 11 October 2011 – Fairtrade is cementing its position as a market leader in ethical labels and a trusted brand across 24 countries, according to a comprehensive global study of 17,000 consumers carried out for Fairtrade International by international opinion research consultancy GlobeScan. The study showed that Fairtrade is the most widely recognized ethical label globally. Nearly six in ten consumers (57%) across the 24 … “High Trust and Global Recognition Makes Fairtrade an Enabler of Ethical Consumer Choice”

Clothing companies and consumer expectations – transparency tops the list

GlobeScan has been tracking consumer expectations towards business in society for a number of years. We routinely find that the global public have the highest expectations of companies around their core operational responsibilities – the safety of their products and services, how they treat the environment, and how they treat their workforce and supply chain. We have also noted a major increase in consumer expectations around transparency in recent years.

Looking at the various stages of the product lifecycle for clothing manufacturers, we find that expectations in the UK and USA are fully in line with this global picture. Consumer expectations are highest around a company‘s level of transparency with its customers about the social and environmental impact of its products, which is regarded as ‘very important‘ by over half of both UK and US consumers. In both countries, the second most important consideration is about a company’s social and environmental responsibility itself.

Expectations around the way it sources its fabrics, and its responsibilities to educate the public around caring for and disposing for their clothes are currently less well developed.

But this underlines the key task for companies in communicating with consumers – to meet consumers’ demand for reliable information. People want reliable, verifiable information presented in an accessible way, to allow them to make informed choices.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2011 

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)