Most Want Congress to Compel Companies to Confront Social Issues

May 17, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Paid Search | Regulatory | Social Media

The vast majority of Americans say it is either very or extremely important for Congress to ensure that companies address social issues, according to a Fleishman-Hillard Inc. (FH) and the National Consumers League (NCL) survey (via What’s Next Blog).

All political persuasions – 96% of Democrats, 80% of Independents, and 65% of Republicans – seem to be in agreement that such legislation should be enacted.

The second FH-NCL study examined the expectations that consumers have of corporate America and the factors that drive those beliefs and attitudes, including the influence of political affiliation.


The survey also tracked the role that media and technology play in informing people about what companies are doing to be socially responsible.

  • More than three-fourths of surveyed Americans give U.S. companies less-than-high marks in the area of operating in a socially responsible manner. Democrats and Independents rate U.S. corporate performance significantly lower than Republicans do.
  • A majority of Americans believe that certain sectors – specifically, the energy, food, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries – need more government oversight than other industries to ensure that they are operating in a socially responsible way.
  • 77% of surveyed American consumers believe that there is a need for global standards outlining corporate social responsibility criteria (an increase of 12% over last year’s results).
  • Two-thirds of respondents indicate that they would make purchasing decisions in favor of a company that meets such global standards for social responsibility.


Treatment of Employees Trumps Environment

For the second year in a row, respondents say that when it comes to how consumers define “corporate social responsibility,” a company’s treatment of its employees and its involvement in the community count more than its environmental stewardship.


  • Independents (42%) are more likely than Democrats (33%) (a difference of 27%) to say that it is more important for a company to treat employees well.
  • Democrats (22%) are more likely than Republicans (7%) or Independents (13%) to say that it is most important for a company to go beyond the law to protect the environment.

Americans expect companies to be actively engaged in the communities in which they operate, going beyond just making charitable contributions.

When asked what expectations they have for companies doing business in their own communities, three times as many respondents favor nonfinancial contributions, such as community involvement and volunteerism, over financial contributions.

Internet Is Primary CSR Information Source

A majority of Americans now rank the internet as their top source for learning about the corporate social responsibility record of a company in their community.


  • Of those respondents using online resources to check on CSR, 73% have used search engines, 57% have used Web sites of independent groups, and close to half have used corporate websites.
  • More than one-fourth of respondents who use the internet to learn about a company’s CSR record are specifically turning to blogs or podcasts set up by customers or non-management employees of companies – a 100% increase over last year’s results.
  • Democrats are more likely than Republicans to visit social-networking sites to gather information on a company’s social responsibility record.


About the study: For the second annual FH-NCL study, professional interviewing service Western Wats conducted a quantitative survey with 2,078 U.S. adults nationwide through telephone interviews, averaging almost 30 minutes, in the first quarter of 2007. The study benchmarks evolving consumer attitudes toward corporate social responsibility, as well as consumer behaviors in response to CSR. It also considers the role that media and technology play in informing people about what companies are doing to be socially responsible.

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