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New annual survey finds that doing good is good for business

By Forster Communications

1 September 2015
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A new annual survey that we released this week highlights the appetite business leaders and consumers have for businesses to play a greater role in tackling pressing social and environmental issues.

The inaugural Business to Society Survey found that 57% of business leaders believe they should be doing more to tackle social issues, while 63% of consumers believe the same.

Other core findings include:

  • Younger business leaders are particularly engaged with 82% of those under 35y saying business should do more
  • The most popular issues that businesses feel they should be involved in are; helping people into employment (80%), supporting local communities (71%) and tackling environmental issues (68%)
  • The least popular issues are; reducing loneliness (25%), tackling homelessness (25%) and providing better care for older people (28%)

The survey of over 700 business leaders and 2,000 consumers was commissioned to highlight the role businesses are playing in social change and the increasing link between social purpose and commercial purpose, as well as some of the challenges faced and areas of development needed.

Commenting on the findings, Amanda Powell Smith, CEO of Forster Communications, said:

“We’ve long believed that commercial and social purposes are about ‘and’ not ‘or’ for businesses, so it is great to have evidence that a lot of business leaders and consumers agree. We know there are many exciting examples of businesses working around core issues, such as employability. However there remains a real opportunity for progressive organisations to look beyond the expected and find ways to tackle less ‘popular’ issues such as loneliness or mental health, that have a critical impact on individual quality of life.”

The survey also shows that consumer demand is playing a role in creating incentives for businesses to get more involved in social and environmental issues, and that such involvement can generate commercial benefit:

  • 64% of consumers think businesses should work more with charities (rising to 75% of 18-34 year olds)
  • 53% of consumers are more likely to give their custom to a business with a strong stance on social and environmental issues
  • If a charity or cause was endorsed by a business they trust, 48% of consumers would be more likely to buy a product or service, 40% would be more likely to donate to the charity and 36% would be more likely to sign up to a campaign

Amanda Powell Smith commented:

“Many consumers want businesses to get involved and be part of the solution and they will reward those businesses who show leadership with their custom. These findings should provide a wake-up call for those businesses who still do not think it is their place to help tackle social and environmental issues.”

“We believe social good is not a bolt-on but an essential, profitable ingredient in new business models and this survey backs that up.”

“Businesses who engage on causes, starting from their own employees through to their suppliers and customers, become better businesses, simple as that.”

One of the most productive ways businesses can tackle social and environmental issues is through developing partnerships with charities. Recent high profile examples include:

  • Tesco and Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation
  • Iceland and the Children’s Food Trust
  • Breast Cancer Care and the FA
  • Rethink and Legal and General
  • Macmillan and Boots
  • Macmillan and Home Retail Group
  • GSK and Save the Children

We are launching a new service for businesses to help them develop cause engagement programmes and find the right charities to partner with to deliver long term positive change.