A recent study commissioned by the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association (CROA) sought to gather insights on this question as part of an overall benchmarking study on the state-of-the-practice in corporate responsibility among companies around the world. With responses from more than 650 global corporations, the results indicate that a majority of companies believe that the purchasing public—both general consumers and b-to-b buyers—does place a value on corporate responsibility when making purchasing decisions. In fact, over 30 percent of those surveyed reported that they can demonstrate a direct correlation between their corporate responsibility efforts and enhanced profitability.
In addition, some 67 percent of survey participants say they have integrated CSR-related messaging into their marketing for at least one of their products or services. Companies like New Belgium Brewing and Timberland are just two examples of companies that have actively promoted the integration of their CSR efforts and their products for a number of years.
Does that definitively indicate a direct relationship between CSR and increased sales? Not necessarily in all cases. What it does indicate, at the very least, is that consumers are hearing these messages more often than ever before. And, as consumers become more informed, their expectations will change to reflect increasing interest in how social and environmental issues are being addressed by the companies from which they buy. As a result, the companies that will be most likely to benefit from a reputation and profitability standpoint will be those that have developed a solid CSR platform that makes sense relative to their business and have shared their efforts in a consistent and transparent manner.