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CSR Committment More Critical Than Ever to Success, Say Business Leaders

Companies that scale back on CSR during the economic downturn will regret the decision come the recovery, a survey of UK business leaders has found.

The study for Ogilvy PR – a survey of over 2,100 opinion formers and consumers in Britain - discovered that an overwhelming majority of business leaders saw trust in companies’ CSR issues as a critical factor for business success.

66 per cent of business leaders surveyed believed that businesses which scale back environmental and social commitment during the recession will regret this once the economy recovers. Also 67 per cent considered being trusted to deliver on social and environmental policies as critical to business success.

Meanwhile the research, released today by OgilvyEarth, Ogilvy PR’s sustainability practice, showed that the recession has done little to curb consumer demand for products with social and environmental credentials. In fact, in some cases consumer concern around the topic has intensified during the economic downturn.

The study found that nearly 40 per cent of consumers were more concerned with environmental and social issues than they were before the recession began. Also, there is a growing trend to put business under more scrutiny, with some 29 per cent of consumers admitting to paying more attention now to a product’s environmental and social credentials compared with 12 months ago.

One possible victim of the recession is consumer trust in businesses’ commitment to maintaining their promises on sustainability, as they attempt to recover from the recession. Only one third of consumers (34 per cent) expressed confidence in UK companies to remain committed to their social and environmental promises.

“These findings clearly undermine the expected belief of eroded consumer attitudes towards ethical brand behaviour in economical times. The ability to maintain a prudent corporate social responsibility platform during a difficult trading environment is paramount for companies to position themselves for competitive gain when the economy recovers,” says Ogilvy PR’s EMEA managing director Ash Coleman-Smith.

“Regardless of the fears in the business community, consumers’ commitment to ethical social issues is holding up during the recession. Now is the opportunity for business leaders to prove that they’re sincere and truly committed to their promises and not just fair weather friends,” adds Coleman-Smith.

The findings come on the back of the recent launch of OgilvyEarth, the group’s holistic sustainability communications practice. The first-of-its-kind practice was established to help the agency’s clients with their sustainability programmes to drive shared and conscientious corporate growth. Combining professional expertise from various marketing disciplines, such as advertising, PR and digital, OgilvyEarth (www.ogilvyearth.com) offers strategic consulting, “green influencer” programmes and CSR thought leadership.