Brands, not government, must drive social change, say consumers in study

Tim Maleeny.
Tim Maleeny.

"There is the increasing belief that companies have a responsibility to make everything better," says Tim Maleeny, CSO of Havas Worldwide

Brands bear as much responsibility for driving positive social change as governments, and actually have a more important role in creating a better future, say consumers in an expansive new study.

"Project Superbrand: 10 Truths Reshaping the Corporate World," released yesterday by Havas Worldwide, reveals a widespread disillusionment with traditional public stewards like governments and non-profit organizations, with consumers turning instead to private industry to solve social problems and create a better world.

"Customers think: ‘I don’t really believe the DMV will help my car issues, but I think Tesla would,’" said Tim Maleeny, chief strategy officer of Havas Worldwide. "In the fast-food business it’s about the quality of food sourcing. There may also be a demand for cleaner energy initiatives from big retailers."

"There is the increasing belief that companies have a responsibility to make everything better," he said.

Overall, 65% percent of respondents said businesses bear as much responsibility as governments for diving social change. Perhaps surprisingly, the sentiment was weakest among Millennials, with only 65% agreeing. Sixty-eight percent of Gen Xers agreed, as did 72% of Baby Boomers.

But Millennials were most likely (63%) to agree that companies have a more important role than governments in creating a better future. That number dropped to 60% among Gen Xers and 55% among Baby Boomers.  

Seventy-five percent of respondents said brands should focus more on driving social change that help the environment than earning a profit. Nearly 60% of participants said they made an effort to find out more about the companies that provide the products and services they purchase.

The results suggest it is no longer an option for a company to make a social impact on a local or global level, but rather a consumer demand, Maleeny said.

The survey, which was conducted last March, involved more than 10,000 people 28 different countries. 20% of participants were "Prosumers," or influencers knowledgeable in topics like mobility and CSR, who have taken part in Havas’ surveys for over a decade. The other 80% were mainstream consumers. The results showed that a higher percentage of Prosumers than mainstream participants believed companies should be more socially conscious.

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