I was looking for evidence that CSR actually have an impact on consumer behavior and came across this short list of research findings. While the list is not complete and some might argue that there are severe gaps in the analysis it does give some pointers on where to begin if you are thinking about going green.
The following is a list of the world’s best research findings related to CSR and consumer buying behavior. Taken from top-tier journals such as the Journal of Marketing and the Journal of Consumer Research, these research insights help marketers and sustainability managers asses and adapt their CSR-based marketing strategies.
Know When Green Is Bad
Leila Hamzaoui Essoussi and Jonathan Linton (from the University of Ottawa) find consumers are willing to pay more for some green products but less for others. When consumers question the performance of an eco-product—in the case of re-treaded tires, for instance—companies have to prove that their eco-product performs as well as competing products. If the eco-product does not perform as well, companies should think twice about marketing it with their valuable brand name.
Put Quality First, CSR Second
Pat Auger (Melbourne Business School), Tim Devinney (University of Technology, Sydney) and colleagues show that consumers care about ethical features—as long as they don’t compromise quality or function. Assuming the shoes fit comfortably or the ink cartridge prints smoothly, three out of five people would spend more for the product that is ethically produced.
Add CSR to Innovation to Attract Customers
Xueming Luo (University of Texas) and C.B. Bhattacharya (European School of Management and
Technology) show that innovative firms engaging in CSR have more satisfied customers than innovative companies that don’t invest in CSR. And those satisfied customers pay off. For a company with a market value of roughly $48 billion, a modest increase in CSR ratings led to annual profits in subsequent years $17 million higher than organizations that didn’t actively engage in CSR.
Appeal to Herd Mentality to Prompt Green Action
Noah Goldstein (University of Chicago), Robert Cialdini (Arizona State University), and Vladas
Griskevicius (University of Minnesota) discovered how to maximize consumers’ participation in Environmental programs, with the test case of reusing hotel towels. Instead of making a “do good” appeal, they told consumers that other people in the same situation reused their towels. The researchers saw a 10% increase in the number of people reusing their towels simply by appealing to the herd mentality.
Your Reputation Precedes You
Remi Trudel (Boston University School of Management) and June Cotte (Richard Ivey Business School) find that a credible reputation enables you to charge higher prices for ethical products. In their study, consumers who respected a company’s reputation and had high expectations of the firm were willing to pay $4.67 more for Fair Trade coffee than for unethically-produced coffee. But, for companies with a poor reputation, consumers were only willing to pay $1.46 more for Fair Trade coffee than for unethical coffee.
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